I opened my eyes with the heaviness hanging over my head. Have I been drinking too much already? Ajay would kill me if he gets to know I had been drinking again today. Where was he anyway? He should have been here three hours ago. We needed to be on the road as soon as possible.
I checked my mobile. No network. It was getting late enough to be worried. I once again stepped into the balcony and looked down. Except for a drenched street dog that was lying down near the rain puddle, there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Thunder rumbled in the distance, sending warning of another heavy shower.
I rushed downstairs to open the front door but stopped midway. Ajay was supposed to knock thrice. Did he forget about our secret code or was there someone else? I looked around in panic. My muddy footprints were all over entrance carpet. On top floor bathroom, the wine bottle was still open near the bath tub and the dead body of my husband was laying uncovered inside bath tub.
I hadn’t cared to cover it up. Ajay was supposed to help me clean up all the evidence before we eloped. And besides, nobody ever came to this secluded farmhouse. Expect me, my husband (sorry, late husband now) and Ajay. That was the whole point of choosing this place for my husband’s murder so that we can clean up the evidence at our own pace and hide his body somewhere to be never found; A clean break from this tortuous marriage.
There was another knock this time, but from the back door of the kitchen. I walked cautiously towards it. This was definitely not Ajay.
“Anyone here?” A soft feminine voice spoke. I stopped in my tracks .
“Hello?” This time a manly voice echoed through the back door. God! There were two of them.
I peeked out of the side window in the kitchen. A couple stood drenched in the rain. The array of red bangles twinkled on the wrist of the girl; must be a newlywed couple. What were they doing at this place at this hour? I hadn’t even switched on any lights to make this place look deserted. They must have gone on the wrong route in the rain. Should I just go out and shoo them off? No, Ajay mentioned specifically that there should not be any evidence that I was here at the time of the murder. I should just wait them out. If no one answers they will probably go off by themselves. I waited patiently. Suddenly the doorknob rattled. A panic wave ran through me as I realized that the door was not really locked. I quickly picked up the nearest knife, tip toed to the living room and hid in the storeroom under the stairs. With a slight creak, the back door opened, and two shadows appeared into the house.
“Hello….anyone there?” A skeptic voice of the guy asked again. I could see them through the slit of the door. They looked around curiously shrugging off the rain droplets from their hairs.
“Looks like no one is here..” Guy said.
“Strange.. I thought I saw someone..” The girl said little confused “Even the back door is opened” She rubbed her hands lightly on her arms as she shivered a little.
“I think they just forgot to close it.” Guy shrugged casually. “We should crash here for the night. I don’t think the owner will come anytime soon”
I clasped my hands nervously. Ajay would be here anytime. The guy was reaching out to the light switch in the kitchen. They cannot do that! It will be impossible for me to hide. I rushed to the electricity main board in the store room and switched off the main plug. The kitchen light flickered on and then went off in a split second.
“Ohh.. I think lights just went out..” The guy said puzzled.
“I think we should just go… I don’t feel right about this place” Girl said looking around weirdly.
The guy looked out of the window to the rumbling cloud far away “We have been walking for two hours now. I don’t want to be stuck in the rain during the night. Let’s just wait till the morning.”
I bit my lips anxiously. This will ruin our entire plan. We were supposed to bury the body before the daylight. I should just try to escape outside and wait for Ajay in hiding ….. but what if they discover the dead body in the upstairs bathroom. I have to stay here and figure out how to drive these stupid people out.
I took a deep breath, to think through my options. I must somehow move to upstairs. That way I can keep an eye on them from up and guard the upstairs bathroom as well. I peeped out again. The guy was scrambling through the kitchen draws.
“What are you doing?” Girl asked.
“Searching for candles, they must keep it somewhere in the kitchen.” He roughed through few drawers. Perfect Time!
While they were distracted, I slid through the door quietly and tip toed upstairs. Right at the side of the stairs was a big ugly vase, that gave me perfect cover to keep a watch downstairs at them while sitting opposite to the room with dead husband.
“Did you hear that…” The girl said hesitantly.
“uhh… like someone is here…” She said. I scooched behind the vase as silently as I could.
“Yes, you are right. I am here” He chuckled at his joke “Ahh got the candle” Guy said.
I saw a dim light tunnel out in the living room as they came with a candle, girl walking closely by the guy tightly clutching his arms. They sat on the sofa in the dim light. The guy looked around the living area fondly “It’s a nice place. We should buy something like this someday. Right in the middle of nowhere, a paradise of our own”
The girl giggled and looked at him lovingly “Let’s first try to get out of the rented apartmenr. Then we can dream big”
The boy wrapped her arms around her “Mrs. Chadini lal, Man should always aim for the moon”
“In that case, I hope you would aim at bigger moon Mr. Kapil Lal” She teased and they laughed out loud.
I thought looking at them. Chadini and Kapil… they were cute. Just like me and my husband long time ago.…until the abuse started and with that my drinking. Killing him was my last chance at love with Ajay. I wondered how angry my husband would have been if he knew that I was having affair with his business partner right under his nose, let alone planning for his murder with him. None of this would have been possible without Ajay. He came up with the master plan and all the execution details… even got my favorite wine for the celebrations afterwards, which I already drank as I happily watched my husband die. A toast to the end of all my suffering.
But it was not all over yet. Ajay was supposed to be here after he builds a fake alibi for us. I looked at clock, he could be here anytime now.
I have to drive these two away before he arrives. I shifted anxiously and hit the vase with my knife. A scratch sound came out.
“What was that?” Chadini looked around startled. I held my breath tightly.
Kapil looked around “ I think this house is haunted” he made a serious face and then burst out laughing.
“Don’t you ever joke about that” Chadini said angrily “You know how much I believe in all those stuff”
“That is why it is so funny” Kapil just laughed harder.
I gave it a quick thought. That could do the trick. Make them believe that this house is haunted and they might leave scared. I smiled at my wicked thought. That would be so much fun too. I looked around for something to make noise. I picked up a small pebble from the vase and dropped it right behind their sofa. A soft thud echoed in the room.
“What’s that..” Chadini digs herself deep into Kapil’s arms.
“A very clever wind, which drove you right into my arms..” Kapil said playfully. This idiot cannot think of anything apart from the romance. Chadini jerked herself out of his hand.
“I am not kidding. I told you I did not feel right about this place” She looked around timidly fidgeting with her stroll. Kapil bends down the back of the sofa and picked up the pebble.
“Look, it was just a pebble. It might have fallen from up due to the wind. Now please, relax” He got her back into his arms. This stupid.. stupid guy! Why can’t he listen to his wife and save their bloody life? I sighed frustrated. I could hear the rumbles of thunder becoming louder. Where will these poor people go if I really scare them out in this thunderous night? No emotions right now. I have a murder to cover up. Should I take a white blanket and walk past them? Nahh.. too risky. Maybe, I should sing some famous horror songs in stifled sound. Or, I could just stick to the basics of crying with a hollow voice. That will scare the shit out of them. I giggled at my idea a bit loudly for its echo to escape downstairs. I covered my mouth instantly almost hitting myself with the knife in my hand.
“Kapil.. did you hear that?” Chadini, whose ears were already spiked up, said alarmingly. This time Kapil did not respond. They slowly looked up at the stairs right at me, but could only see a patch of blind darkness staring back at them. I sat breathlessly still not giving any idea that I hid in that same darkness.
“I think it came from the upstairs bedroom…” Kapil said softly and got up with the candle. I gently further behind the big vase. I could see the candlelight moving slowly towards the stairs. What the hell was this stupid doing? They are supposed to run away from scary voices. If they find me or the dead body, I will have to kill them. I cannot have any witness at any cost.
“What are you doing…” Chadini stopped Kapil.
“It’s probably nothing…. but I still must check if we are staying overnight,” Kapil said cautiously walking up the stair.
“No, Stop, Let’s just go. We can survive one night under the tree…. Or a shed or anywhere. Let’s just go..” Chadini begged desperately.
“It’s Nothing Chadini. Probably just a cat or something..” Kapil’s footsteps climbed up steadily. What was wrong with this overconfident fool!
Chandini held his hands firmly “wait.. don’t leave me alone here. ‘I’ll come too,” Their shadows danced in the candlelight as they reached upstairs. I gripped my knife tightly against my chest, ready to strike as soon as they discover me. But their eyes were glued to the bedroom opposite to me. I was invisible in the plain sight. They moved slowly inside the bedroom right past me.
“Look there is nothing in here… Let’s just go back down now” Chadini said persuading Kapil. I prayed fervently for them to turn back. Just go, and we will all be ok.
“Let me check the bathroom” Kapil said curiously. I gulped down a lump. I have to stop them somehow before they reach the bathroom or I will have to deal with three bodies instead of one. My mind was racing and then it suddenly struck me. I was hiding right below the gallery window next to the vase. I could open the window, letting the wind blow away their candle! ! Yes. This will give me few minutes to create some sort of distraction.
I quitely raised my hands and opened the window above me. Just when they reached near the bathroom, the gush of wind blew out the candle. Chadini gasped in shock as the pitch darkness engulfed the house. For a minute no one spoke. I quickly picked up another pebble and threw it downstairs to drive them there. But the sound of pebble was lost in the rumble of the thunder.
“Kapil….what should we do?” Chadini’s voice trembled.
“oh wait… I almost forgot. I think I have a lighter in my pocket..” Kapil said. I felt the blood draining from my face.
“You said you had quit smoking..” Chadini said half upset, half afraid.
“Well thank god that I did not..” Kapil said. I wish he would have quit smoking, I wish they would have never come here… I wish I did not have to do what I was about to do. I drew in a deep breath as I walked right behind Kapil, holding my knife high above his head. He would have to go first. Chadini would be an easy target next.
With a soft ‘click’ of the lighter, the light filled the bathroom. A loud scream escaped Chadini’s mouth. I raised my knife at kapil for the blow, but froze midway looking at the sight in front of me. Two bodies lie on the floor, one of my slaughtered husband, and other, mine. My head began to buzz loudly. What was happening?
“Kapil… Kapil.. “Chadini was screaming at the top of her lungs “ Body.. this.. that.. body..”
“RUN!” Kapil screamed. They turned to look right into my eyes and ran straight through me. Suddenly I had this numbly realization that I was not there. That somehow, I did not exist at all. I bend down to look at my body lying on the floor. White froth was coming out of my mouth and a wine glass was spilled near my hand. It was all coming back slowly to me. I had killed my husband and then gone to take the drink of my favorite wine which was poisoned by.. by whom? My husband? it struck me suddenly… Ajay! He had gifted me that wine for celebration for today. He knew I had a drinking problem. Why? Why would he do anything like that? Why? The property papers! He was the benefactor after our death! He played me!
The thunder rumbled louder in the black sky. I was really dead. I had heard stories about people who had an untimely death. How their spirit roams about never sure if they are alive or dead, reliving the same day again and again; locked in the timeless loop. Was this happening to me as well? Was I stuck in this for eternity? Things were blurring around me and then it suddenly went pitch dark and pitch silent….
I opened my eyes with the heaviness hanging over my head. Have I been drinking too much already? Ajay would kill me if he gets to know I had been drinking again today. Where was he anyway? I stepped into the balcony and looked down. Except for a drenched street dog that was lying down near the rain puddle, there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Suddenly, I hear a knock at the door….
Publishing rights - As the 3rd place winner in "Write India Completion" this story can be co-published by Times of India magazine, as per the authority of its author" Priyanka Mathur".