Mumbai has always been known as the city that never sleeps but it is snoring tonight, thought Richa as she walked the empty streets.
She had decided to stay back to finish work and tie up some loose ends before her annual holiday started on the morrow, not realizing how late it was when she capped the pen and glanced at the clock. Locking the office took ten more minutes. Her car was being serviced at the garage and since public transport was never a problem in the megapolis, she didn’t give it much thought as she stepped out of the building.
Looking for a taxi, she was surprised there wasn’t a soul in sight. The roads, slick after the evening rain, stretched like a gleaming carpet and the only sound was that of her heels clicking on the road. The silence seemed to make that resonant sound echo a bit louder.
“Strange,” thought Richa.
Though she had never stayed back so late before, Mumbai always had some nightlife that kept it awake. Night-watchmen gossiping with cups of tea to warm their palms, the vada-pav vendors peddling their wares, cabbies waiting for fares to come along were regular features.
Tonight, however, Mumbai was like a ghost town. Even the mongrels weren’t prowling the streets. An icy shiver ran down her spine as Richa quickened her pace, hoping to hail a taxi soon. She walked for a few more minutes and finally saw one cruising by. She broke into a run, praying the cabbie would notice her.
“Bandra,” she said, even before the cabbie pulled up next to her. When she spotted an affirmative nod, she hopped in, breathing a sigh of relief.
“Double fare, Madam, it’s so late in the night,” the driver said. Richa agreed without a thought. All she wanted was to get home. She didn’t mind paying the extra fare so long as she could get home.
The driver gunned the cab forward and she lay her head back to rest a bit. She looked up with a start as the taxi seemed to stop abruptly. Had she dropped off sleep? Was she dreaming?
“Where are we,” Richa asked.
“This is your destination, Madam. Please pay me, I have to leave.”
Looking around her, Richa didn’t know what to say. She was in a deep, dark forest, only tiny streams of moonlight trickling in through the foliage. The rich fragrance of roses filled the air even though she couldn’t see any around.
“Where am I? Where have you brought me?” She asked the driver and turned around to realize he was not in the taxi.
The cold hand of fear gripped her heart as she wildly looked around for him. She got out of the taxi and circled it, calling out for the driver but he had disappeared into thin air.
She thought she spotted movement behind one of the trees and walked gingerly towards it, her heels hindering her progress. She peered behind the trunk and notice that no one was there. And when she turned around, even the taxi was gone! Were her eyes playing tricks on her or was it her mind?
Walking to where the taxi had stood, she looked intensely, almost willing the vehicle to materialize again. But there was nothing there. Not even tire tracks. Richa was clueless about it all. Worse, she was hungry, thirsty, disoriented, and very, very scared. She didn’t know what to do. There was nothing except her own instinct to guide her. She decided to walk towards the right, reasoning that it is always auspicious to choose the right. Anything to make herself feel better.
Stilettos were not the best footwear for a trek through the forest; she told herself, trying to smile as she gingerly walked towards God alone knew what. Something gripped her feet and she felt herself meeting the ground!
When she finally stopped screaming and sobbing, she risked a look behind and there was nothing there. As she stood up, she realized it was the heel of one of her sandals that had snapped!
“Whew,” she breathed a sigh of relief. Removing both her sandals, she tucked them away in her handbag.
Her eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness now and she could make out a lot of trees. Too many, even for a forest, she thought. Making her way ahead, she prayed that she would find someone who would help her. Knowing in her heart that she was hoping for a miracle.
She realized the ground was very soft; like walking on a plush carpet. Her feet just sunk into the undergrowth and she felt a moment’s bliss. Walking on, she thought she saw a pinprick of light. Or, was it her imagination again?
She walked faster and discovered that it was indeed light. The one pinprick became two. Then three.Then four. Glow worms, Richa said, as she neared them. She stopped in her tracks when she found what the lights were. Eyes.Just eyes. Not attached to anything. Just strange eyes. Floating around and multiplying rapidly. Yellow eyes that shone in the dark. Dead eyes that had no emotion.
Muffling a scream she began backing off, as fast as she could, never taking her eyes off the eerie scene before her.
As she ran backward, she tripped and fell. She couldn’t get up this time. The ground wouldn’t let her. Tiny tendrils materialized and held her down, tightening their grip on her as they multiplied.
Richa didn’t know what was happening.
She struggled to break free but to no avail. Her body was being engulfed by these, and there was the smell of roses again. She opened her mouth to scream but it was a silent scream. The eyes had formed a weird screen before her. There was a blaze of light now and she could see the forest from where she lay captive. The trees were looking down at her like they had a life of their own. She looked down to see what was holding her down and let out an ear-piercing scream.
Tiny, little baby fingers were holding her down. Each one with a life of its own. They held on to her like a needy child would hold on to it’s mother and refused to let go. With each passing moment, their grip on her increased even as they multiplied.
With tears coursing down her cheeks, she was gasping for breath as she lay there, terrified and helpless. She looked up imploring God to help her and felt a drop fall on her face from above.
Was it raining? She prayed it would pour, and wash these horrible things away.
She looked up again, more intently and she sensed the trees had come closer than they were. Or had they? She was too disoriented to think by now. But yes, they were definitely closer.
Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop Plop. Plop. Plop.
It was definitely liquid. A dark, vile, foul-smelling liquid. Like dark molasses. It spread itself as soon as it hit the ground and grew rapidly.
Now it was like rain. Rancid rain that just didn’t flow away.
It fell, and fell, and fell.
By now Richa was firmly entrenched onto the ground and the only things she could move were her eyes. She was sobbing hysterically, not knowing what to do.
A drop of rain fell on her forehead. The smell choked her and she held her breath, as it grew and grew all over her face. She couldn’t breathe anymore and let out a scream. And screamed. And screamed. Till she woke up. Clutching a broken sandal.
This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.
My theme for the same is Navras – The Nine Emotions of Life. I will be writing Fiction for this theme.
This story is written for Bhayanaka, which means Terror or Fear.
Read my story for Karuna here
Read my story for Hasya here
Read my story for Bibhatsa here
Read my story for Adbhut here