He Hates The Dark.
As He Walks Alone At Night,
His Terror Elates…
He Hates The Dark.
As He Walks Alone At Night,
His Terror Elates…
Bad things can happen at any time. However, the worst things tend to happen while alone. My story is of such a time of solitude.
Imagine an empty street, in the wee dark hours. Walking alone, not a soul in sight. Your heartbeats keeping pace with your swift footsteps. Nervously looking around, hoping that no horrors hide in the shadows. Then you see it – A moving silhouette. You brush it off as a figment of your imagination. Sadly, it is not. You realize too late. The knife is deep inside you when you see the face – My face.
I waited impatiently on my bike at the signal, waiting for it to turn green. It had been a long day for me. I had woken up early, prepared breakfast for my daughter and helped her get ready. Then I had dropped my little angel to school and had rushed back home. I prepared lunch for my wife and had then sped to the hospital to meet her. Having spent time with her, feeding her lunch, rejoicing in the few words she could muster the strength to utter, I had left the hospital. I had to pick up my darling daughter from school.
The signal finally turned green, and I gunned the accelerator. No sooner had I cleared the signal than my eyes fell upon a ragged man standing at the edge of the road, signaling for a lift. I slowed down and brought my bike to a halt a few steps away from the man. He was well dressed in a fashionable denim jacket. However, in contrast to his colorful attire, his body looked thin and his face looked pale. The beard was sharply trimmed, but his eyes were dull and sunken. He looked sick. I looked at him and called out –
“Where do you need a lift to?”
He barely whispered back.
“Where are you going?”
It was a weird response.
“I’m going to St. Carmel’s School. There is a hospital nearby. Do you want me to drop you en route?”
He smiled at me.
“Sure, that would be great.”
I restarted my bike as he climbed on behind me. His reply did not sit right with me. He had smiled, but his voice had no hint of joy in it. I credited that to the fact that he was feeling under the weather. As soon as he settled behind me, I accelerated on to the road. I could feel his breath on my neck. It made me uneasy. I decided to start a conversation to ease my mood. However, before I could say anything, I heard a whisper.
“Thanks a lot for giving me a lift. I was waiting for quite a while.”
“No problem! I think people should help each other out.”
I waited for him to say something. All I got in response was some more cavernous breathing. I chose to ignore him for the time being. It was just another ten minutes. After a minute of trying to ignore him, I heard him whispering to me.
“Hmmm! So, why are you going to St. Carmel’s School?”
“I have to pick up my daughter from school.”
“Oh, nice! How old is she?”
“Aliya is ten years old. What about you, do you have any children?”
“I have no family. It is just me. It has always been just me.”
I felt sorry for him, but I could not detect any sorrow in his voice. He may have grown apathetic towards his condition over the years. So, I thought it best to avoid conversing about this matter. However, he did not seem to think so. He continued to interview me.
“What about your wife? What does she do?”
“Well, my wife is not in the best of health. She has been unwell and has been receiving treatment. The doctors are positive she will make it.”
“Nice. It is always so important to have people around you, no?”
“People who support you, depend on you. People who are affected by what happens to you.”
It seemed like he was talking to himself. I did not interrupt. He continued his monologue.
“You need people around you to share your sorrows with. Am I not right, mister..?”
“Sunil. And you are right. You do need people to around you to share your pains and sorrows with.”
The pale man chuckled.
“I am glad you agree with me. I see the hospital is here. You can drop me off right here.”
I brought the bike to a halt next to the pavement.
“Good luck. I hope you feel better soon.”
As he got down from the bike, I felt a slight prick on the back of my arm. I assumed it was the man’s nails. He got off and waved at me. The joyless smile made its reappearance.
“Yes, I feel much better now. I feel as if I’ve passed on my pain to you. It is a good feeling.”
I waved back at him and rode away towards St. Carmel’s.
The next morning I woke up and as per my daily ritual, visited the washroom for a face wash. I felt an intense itching feeling at the back of my arm, where I had felt the prick. I checked the mirror. I was shocked to see blood at the spot where I had scratched. I decided to get it checked while visiting my wife. I turned on the morning news. The sullen faced anchor was reading soberly off the teleprompter.
“Viewers who travel by two-wheelers, are advised not to offer rides to any hitchhikers they may come across. The police have received multiple complaints regarding pin-prick AIDS attacks initiated by a pale hitchhiker. Any suspicious activity should be reported at the nearest police station.”
I slumped back into my sofa. The pale man had meant what he had said.
He had passed on his pain to me.
Moving to a new city has its fair share of problems. Finding good housing is one of those problems. I had faced this problem up till a month ago. At that point, I was flat hunting. Luckily, I did not have to hunt for long. I found a flat in a good locality which was not too far from my workplace. The flat felt cozy and had a great sea-side view. The owner was a cheery old man. The only rule he set up for the flat was that I would have to pay for any damages I caused. Otherwise I was free to do what I wanted within the flat. I thought that was the end of my housing problem. I was wrong.
My flat was on the 11th floor of the building. I agree I like to stay fit. But, the thought of climbing eleven floors never crossed my mind. The elevator was the only option for me. The elevator used a double gate system. The outer gate was a metal door with a small window at the top, allowing a person standing outside to look in and vice versa. The inner gate was a scissor gate. The elevator did not move unless the inner gate and outer gate were both closed. I was settling into my new job as well. There wasn’t a lot of workload, but I generally take my time to get used to a new environment. So, I used to end up coming late every night from work and after work dinner parties. My new flat was treating me well too. No leaks, no pests and no other bad surprises. However, three weeks ago was when the weird incidents started happening.
It was a Friday night, which meant that it was booze night. I had had my regular share of beers and was mildly buzzing by the time I got back. The night had grown late – 1am. My friends dropped me outside my building and I stepped in after waving them goodnight. I pressed the button for the lift. After it arrived, I opened the outer gate and was met with a familiar high pitched female voice saying
“Please close the door.”
I slid open the inner gate and stepped inside.
”Please close the door.”
My buzzing mind was finding this voice highly irritating.
“Please close the door.”
“Yea, yea, you dumb hag.”
I pulled the outer door and slid the inner gate back into the closed position. I pressed the button for the 11th floor and waited back. The annoying voice finally stopped and the lift began moving. My head was buzzing really hard now. I shifted my attention the LCD display that showed the floor number. Having nothing better to do I decided to count out the floor numbers.
The lift had halted at five. The female voice started speaking again
“Please open the door.”
I was not sure whether I heard that correctly. Did the voice say open instead of close, or was it the beer finally finishing its job? I started to feel very cold and a sense of uneasiness came over me. I decided to brush the feeling off. The lift had halted but no one entered the lift. I pressed the 11th floor button again. The lift resumed its climb and halted at my floor. I walked up to my flat, unlocked the door and settled into my bed. I decided to call it a night.
A couple of days went by without incident. I woke up in the morning, got ready for work and left my house. As I neared the outer gate of the lift, I noticed a sign put up on it. The sign read:
‘Lift is closed for maintenance. Please use the stairs.
Inconvenience is regretted.
I muttered a few curses and rushed towards the staircase. Now, my building had no main staircase. It only had an emergency staircase. On every floor, a door connected the floor to the staircase. I pushed the door open and began my long dash down the stairs. As I reached the fifth floor, I was almost out of breath. I agree, my fitness level was not what it once used to be. I noticed something peculiar. The door that led to the staircase was barricaded shut. This was weird. I figured there was an alternate staircase for the lower floors or something. I was in a hurry so I decided to not dwell on the peculiarity. However, as I reached the fourth floor, I noticed it had a normal functioning door. The same held true for the remaining three floors. I thought it was really strange. I realized I had to get to office and decided to focus on that.
I got back early from work that evening. I was admiring my building basking in the setting sun when I noticed it. All the windows on the fifth floor were barricaded as well. I had never noticed this before. Or maybe I had, but had ignored it. Now, the entire situation seemed very peculiar. The lift stopping there, the change of statement and now the door and windows being barricaded, I had a feeling it was all connected. I decided to ask my watchman about it.
“Baburao, is the lift functioning now?”
“No sir. It will restart from tomorrow morning for sure.”
“Oh! Baburao, tell me this. Who lives on the fifth floor?”
The watchman gave me a very puzzled look.
“Sir, no one lives on the fifth floor. It has been empty for five years. In fact, it has been sealed shut.”
(To be continued…)
Edwards untied Alain from the bed. He went towards the door and opened it. He looked at his first-mate, Gracht, who had been waiting outside after knocking on the cabin door. On seeing Alain standing behind Edwards, he looked at Edwards quizzically.
“Mr. Gracht, I fear this is no reef that we have hit. Send word to the crew, to get ready for battle. “, said Edwards, giving no explanation about Alain’s presence.
Gracht showed a hint of surprise on his face. But being the loyal first-mate that he was, he did not question his Captain further. He turned and made his way to the deck.
“Alain, let’s go check up on our friend Jach shall we?”- said Edwards, turning towards Alain.
Alain nodded in agreement. They made their way towards Jach’s room. Edwards drew his flintlock as they approached the door. Edwards knocked on the door.
“Jach, are you in there?”
Edwards got no response. He knocked again.
A crew member ran up to Edwards and Alain.
“Sir, Mr. Gracht needs you on the deck.” He said with a sense of urgency.
“We will be there shortly. “, responded Edwards.
He quickly added –
“Have you seen Mr. Jach by any chance?”
“Yes, he is on deck with the rest of the crew.”
Edwards and Alain looked at each other and followed the crewman hastily to the deck. Sure enough, they spotted Jach. He was looking towards the sea. To Edwards, it looked as if Jach almost knew this was coming. His face showed no surprise or fear, unlike the other members of the crew. Jach noticed the captain and Alain walking towards him.
“Ah, captain, I was looking for you. Where were you? “
Removing his flintlock, Edwards aimed it Jach’s face.
“Stow it Jach. I am onto your game.”
Jach seemed surprised.
“Game, what game? Captain, I don’t understand what you are talking about.”
The crewmen grew alert to the situation. Gracht came up behind his captain.
“Captain, what are your orders?”
“Get two men to guard him, right now.”
Gracht motioned to two crewmen standing behind Jach. The moved up next to him, one on each side and held him by his arms.
The ship began quaking again. Edwards addressed his crew.
“Men, we have braved many perils together. It is another peril that we must face right now. In a few moments there are things that are going to attack us. People that dwell in the sea. They are going to be here for blood. I say let’s give it to them. Let us make these waters a sea of their blood. Draw weapons. “
Roused by the words of their captain, the crewmen drew their weapons. Rusted cutlasses, fish pikes, and flintlocks were their weapons of choice. They were all fishermen by profession, but every last one of them, had been tested in battle before. They were no strangers to battles.
Edwards aimed his flintlock at Jach again.
“Mr. Jach, Alain has told me everything about your kind.”
Jach’s face showed genuine surprise.
“Now tell me. What have your people got to do with me? Why am I a part of this equation?”
Jach continued looking surprised.
“I really do not understand this question Captain Edwards. What are you talking about?”
Edwards’ face developed a stern look.
“Do not play dumb with me. All your friends from underwater have plans. What are they? Alain told me there is a plan.”
Jach’s face turned pale.
“Alain told you.”
He looked at Alain.
“I get it now. You are with them. You were spying on me. Weren’t you?”
Alain smiled coldly.
“Yes, I was. Captain Edwards, let me kill him now. Before the others arrive.”
Edwards steadied his aim.
“Now Mr Jach, tell me the truth.”
“Captain, believe me. I do not know what he is talking about. I only wanted to get to Veluise Islands, which is why I decided to come along with you. In fact, I did not even know the directions. Alain gave them to me.”
It was now Edwards turn to look surprised. He turned around to see a shocked expression on Gracht’s face and long-knife coming out of his stomach. The knife belonged to Alain, whose face had a devilish grin on it, baring his sharp teeth.
Edwards aimed his flintlock at Alain.
“You were the traitor, not Jach. I will kill you now. “
Alain sniggered from behind the cover that Gracht’s lifeless body provided.
“That is an astute observation, Captain. But I fear it is a bit too late now. Kill them all. ”
At that moment, a dozen dark forms sprung onto the deck from the ocean. They had moved so fast, the crewmen had hardly noticed. The deck instantly broke into a battle. The Merfolk and crewmen went at each other with all they had got. Even though the crew outnumbered the sea-men by a huge margin, their larger numbers were easily kept at bay by the amazing speed and skill of the sea-men. It was an even battle.
Amidst the frenzy, Jach broke free of his captors and made his way to the edge of the deck. Alain followed in close pursuit. Alain managed to corner Jach.
“You can stop now Jach. We have you right where we want you. There is no escape”
Alain drew his knife and started walking slowly towards an unarmed Jach. Just after a couple of steps, Alain heard a loud bang, followed by an immense pain in his stomach. He looked down to see blood pouring out of a hole in his stomach. Clutching it, he turned around to see Edwards holding his flintlock, gunpowder smoke rising out of it.
“It would seem you have nowhere to escape, fish-man. “ – Edwards said with a grim look on his face.
Alain rested his knee on the floor, the wound sapping his strength by the second. Satisfied that Alain was of no more threat, Edwards jumped back into the fray.
The battle went on for a good twenty minutes. Bodies lay everywhere on the deck. The dead lay in a pool of blood, human blood as well as Merfolk blood. The Merfolk had been excellent fighters, managing to handle such a large number of people. But in the end, the sheer numbers had overwhelmed the Merfolk. Edwards himself had slain three out of the twelve assailants. Half of the crew of The Titania lay dead. Most of the ones alive had some or the other injury. Edwards ordered his crew to make a hasty turn around.
After the ship had turned, Edwards made his way back to the semi-conscious Alain. He had fallen down, with his back to the floor and had lost a lot of blood. Edwards reckoned he did not have much time to live. But he couldn’t let him die without getting answers to his questions. He threw some water on Alain’s face and brought him back to full consciousness.
“Fish-man, I have a few questions for you and I am in no mood for long stories now. Make it quick. I want to know everything. What have your people got to do with me? Speak fast. “
Alain coughed, spitting out blood. He spoke in a breathless voice.
“All you humans are so self-obsessed. You think everything in this world is related to you. It isn’t. The truth is that you were just being used to get us to this location. Jach is one of those human-loving scum. I was indeed spying on him. He had gained information that my people were up to something in the Veluise Islands. He holds vital information about his comrades too. We needed that. So, me and my twelve soldiers, my sworn brothers, decided to capture him and extract the information from him, once he made it here. I gave him the directions to this place. That night, I was truly making sure nothing goes wrong for my men. But you intervened and took away our element of surprise. You, human were only a vessel to accomplish our goals, and we will accomplish them. What you did today, will only delay the inevitable. Your race will perish.”
Alain coughed again, and spit more blood out and lay motionless on the floor. Edwards gave Alain’s body a disgusted look.
“Men, dump the bodies into the sea. We cannot have rotting corpses on our ship. May the souls of our brothers find peace. ”
The crewmen followed their captain’s orders. They said their last words for their friends while dumping their bodies into the sea and following that, they tossed the bodies of the Merfolk. Edwards watched as the bodies sunk into the sea. With Alain’s words still fresh in his mind, he knew he had a lot to talk about with Jach.
The bodies made their way slowly towards the bottom, lending more of their scarlet hue to the blue sea, with each passing moment. The sea soon turned red, sea of blood indeed. The bodies did not sink unnoticed. Hundreds of pairs of red, glowing eyes, peering from the dark marine depths, observed the bodies and the trail of blood left by the Titania.
(The End, for now)
Image courtesy : Rudhika
Alain’s story had been interesting till now. But, he had failed to explain anything about his motives, which gave Edwards no reason to trust Alain. He decided to leave Alain as he was, tied to the bed. Edwards removed his flintlock pistol from its position in his belt and placed it on the table, pointing in the direction of Alain. He placed is hand on the flintlock and looked at Alain –
“The story is nice. But, you had better get to the point now, fast.”
Alain glanced at the flintlock. Showing no sign of fear, he continued the story.
‘The teenage prince sunk rapidly, the chains bound to his body speeding up his descent. Mer held his breath. His vision started being invaded by darkness. His shock at being condemned to this fate was soon replaced by fear. His vision went completely black as his lungs finally gave in to the pressure. But instead of suffocating and drowning completely, Mer found it to be more pleasant under water than over it. He had no trouble breathing. His vision fully returned to him. He looked at his body. His elbows had developed prominent scales on them. The same could be said about his feet. He felt his neck. His fingers met with thin slits. Gills, he thought to himself. His body was still loosely bound with chains. His fear had now left him. It had been replaced with anger, a burning wrath against his father. He pushed out with his hands and to his surprise, the chains broke apart. This was a feat he could have never dreamed of performing before whatever it was that had happened to him. Free from his shackles, he scouted the area around him with his eyes. To his surprise, multiple pairs of peering red eyes looked back at him through the thick ocean flora. Slowly, hundreds of people began coming out of their hiding spots surrounding him. He looked around. All of them had red eyes and scales on their elbows and feet, just like him. He spotted features that seemingly matched his stable boy’s features, before he was drowned in the sea. He kept looking around and found several faces that were known to him. Then it dawned upon him. None of the condemned people had died. They were alive, just like him. The people had surrounded him now.
“It is Prince Mer. Let’s rip him apart. His father did this to us. “
A random voice said from the crowd.
Mer had always thought that talking underwater was impossible. But apparently, it wasn’t so.
“Yes. Kill him!”
More voices joined in.
Soon, the crowd began moving slowly towards Mer, their discontent clearly visible. Mer knew he had to put a stop this, or else his new lease on life would be a very short one.
“Stop! Listen to me. I know how you feel. I know you are all angry, angry with the King. Angry, that he abandoned you and condemned you, no us, to this fate.”
Mer paused. He looked around to check whether his words had been registered by the people. They had stopped moving towards him. Mer let his anger swell within him.
“I share this fate with you. My own father did this to me. And he will pay. I swear this to you. You, you are all my people. And I, Prince Mer shall lead you. Together, you and I shall crush the Kingdom of Veluise. I promise you, we will have our revenge. Will you share this revenge with me?”
A long pause followed. Mer had spoken with true feelings, and his speech was soon met with cries of approval. And from that day, Mer became the king of these people, and they came to call themselves – Merfolk.
Mer’s first order of business was to understand the extents of their new abilities, their strengths and weaknesses. Mer discovered that his people though much stronger inside water, could survive on the surface as well. As long as they were near the sea air, they would not die due to suffocation. However, they were not very physically strong without the presence of water. He also understood that their diseased bodies could only digest meat, even human meat. One of the amazing things Mer discovered was that a few of his kind could alter their physical features to look like normal humans for a short amount of time. They would manage to get rid of their gills and the red hue of their eyes. Mer felt this was most interesting and useful to his plan. He began training his people to fight as soldiers. He would need them for the war that was coming. He continued planning his revenge for many months, biding his time and waiting for the right moment to make his move.
The time finally came after thirteen months. The disease had been eradicated from the Kingdom of Veluise, and the king reigned over a peaceful time. Mer had carefully selected his time. At the night of the King’s birthday, the whole kingdom was in a celebratory mood. Taking advantage of the thin vigilance, Mer and his group of thirty best soldiers snuck into the royal palace. The hooded Mer made his way into the gala and approached the king. Mer taking his hood off, revealed his presence. Mer’s face was the last thing the old King ever saw, as Mer plunged a sword into his chest. His soldiers made quick work of the astonished royal guards. He went to the ramparts and lit a torch. His Generals recognizing this as the pre-planned signal launched their attacks. Merfolk began rising from the sea and attacking the island cities from all directions. The Veluise soldiers were caught unawares. It was a massacre. The unsuspecting people of Veluise stood no chance. A once great Kingdom had been turned into a mass grave.
Mer returned to the sea. Even though Veluise was destroyed, his own losses had been heavy. More than half of his people were among the bodies littering the islands. Mer’s hatred had extended towards the rest of humanity now. A few of his subjects did not agree with his actions. Realizing his cruel ambitions, they decided to not be a part of his actions. They decided to stand beside humanity and act against Mer.
I am one of their descendants. ‘
Edwards took a moment to register everything. He went up to Alain and cut the cloth near his elbow. The gills on his elbow glittered in the lamp’s light.
“You still haven’t told me what you were doing yesterday night”, Edwards said as he lifted his pistol.
“I was making sure things do not go wrong. We are in Merfolk territory now. Every night, I keep a lookout for those who dwell inside these seas. I know they are planning something big and it is related to you somehow. “
Edwards was bemused now.
“Me? And how do you even know about all of this? “
Alain smiled dryly.
“Captain Edwards, how did you find someone to navigate these treacherous waters so easily? A bit too convenient, I would say. I did mention that some Merfolk could change their appearance, to appear human like. “
Edwards understood now.
“Jach! “, he exclaimed.
“Yes, captain. Jach. I have been keeping an eye on him, working undercover to get wind of their plan for humanity. They – “
Alain was cut short by the impact of motion as the ship suddenly stopped. Almost instantly a knock sounded on the door.
“Captain Edwards, we seem to have hit a reef.”
Edwards looked at Alain with alarm on his face.
“They are here”, Alain responded with equal alarm.
It was Friday evening. We had gathered at Simon’s house. His parents had gone out of town . Simon had wanted to try something new , and so we had gathered – Jane , Mark , Virginia and me. I knew what Simon had wanted to try. He had been pretty interested in it since a few days. As we waited in the dining room , he presented to us what he had wanted to try , an Ouija Board.
Simon placed the board on the dining table. Everyone sat at the table , encircling the board. I hung back. I was really skeptical about these talking boards. I had never once heard of an Ouija board actually doing the trick. But , I still liked watching people making their frantic attempts to contact the spirits with their eyes full of hope and fear. This was exactly how the people sitting at the table were feeling . Simon moved the planchette along the board , along all the alphabets , numbers and even along the yes , no and goodbye markings. The lights were dimmed and everyone was speaking in whispers. Simon instructed everyone to hold each other’s hands. He left one of his hands free to operate the planchette. Simon had been pretty confident about his knowledge of operating the board. He started calling out to the spirit world-
“ Hear me , o those who stay in the realm of the dead.”
No movement of the planchette.
“We wish to speak with you. Give us a sign that you are present among us. “
I found it amusing. There was no way any spirit would ever respond to something like this. But , Simon did not give up.
“Just give us a sign. Any movement on the board. “
No movement again.
“ Please, I really do believe in ghosts and spirits. I only want some proof. Please give me some sign. “
No movement, again.
Well, it was hopeless. After a while , even Simon began to feel so. He let go of the planchette and closed his eyes, dejected. The others at the table appeared a bit let down as well , but I suspect they were secretly pleased.
Everyone began to leave and started saying their goodbyes to Simon. I had known Simon for a while now and I did not like to see him dejected. I walked up to the table and moved the planchette from its position to the ‘goodbye’ marking.
Everyone gaped .
“ Hey Simon , I think it did work “ – they said.