Monday, September 20, 2021

In the night when it rained

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The perks of living a solitary life is something Charles has always admired, but the fear attached to it has also made his life somehow uneasy- the fear of ghosts. He lives in his old apartment which seems haunted; the pale light omitting from the street light always blesses his bedroom at night, so one can see no oil lamp in that room, except for the others where Charles plots oil lamps at such height that only a small portion of the room remains unaffected by the dim flickering light of that lamp. There is no guest who would bother Charles’ peace at all; no regular knock on the door which could damage his painting on it- two skulls with long hair holding three bones in their hands, perhaps it’s one of the many reasons why his apartment seems haunted, and it’s perhaps for the same reason that he hasn’t received any guest for almost three years now, except for that one electrician named Peter whom he considers as the biggest rival of his solitude.

Charles Fleming, as it’s his full name, is a man of around late thirties, but still unmarried. He was never interested in his marriage at all, though there were some girls who were dreaming of marrying him as they were awestruck by his looks (six feet tall; beautifully chiselled face with stubble on it which always reminds him of his mother who used to ask him to shave it off; and also his seductive eyes which still don’t fail to attract any woman towards him). He had a job in his hand, a job at the bank. But he was fired as he killed his manager after a hot argument which saw him in jail for some years.

It’s raining cats and dogs outside; the petrichor could be sensed in every household including Charles’, who is looking at the mirror and fondling his stubble with such care just like a mother fondles her child. Through the window pane which is bathing in saline water, he sees the blurred red and yellow lights moving outside. He smiles at this view, as if he had wanted to see this for a long time. Suddenly, a knock on the door bothers him, but what bothers him most is that his masterpiece on that wooden canvas getting ruined by the knock. He furiously approaches the door, but as soon as he reaches there, he opens the door gently, so that he can peep outside to see the knocker. He sees a man shorter than him. He has worn a green cap and a raincoat and has an orange tool box in his right hand. He is Peter.

‘You here again?’

‘I’m sorry sir’, Peter puts down his cap and apologizes. ‘I have been informed there is some problem here.’

‘No, I didn’t call anyone’, Charles begins to shut the door.

‘Sir please please please…let me check once.’

‘NO!’ Charles yells loudly, bothering the children playing on the street.

‘Sir…please’, Peter was almost shivering.

‘Okay’, Charles shows a whimsical smile and lets Peter in. He is about to close the door when he remembers about the painting. He immediately gets out and takes a glance at his work. It is ruined. One of the three bones is smudged now, which makes it look more horrifying. Charles is red with fury. ‘I will kill him’, he thinks. He gets in and closes the door in anger, but as soon as he turns back towards Peter, he is calm all again.

Peter has started his work, and is rummaging in his toolbox for something. Soon, his hands come out with a bulb, and now he starts fixing it in one of the holders of my bedroom. ‘I told you, there’s a defect’, he says gently.

Charles is silent. May be still angry with him over that painting.

‘Do you like being alone?’ Peter asks while fixing the bulb.

‘Just finish your work and get out’, Charles almost yells.

One second of silence which Peter breaks, ‘I always knew you were boring’; he says this in a tone enough to offend Charles. But the latter is still silent. Such tolerance.

‘See, I know you’d not like this, but still I want to inform you about someone’, Peter fixes the bulb and gets off the chair.

‘About whom?’ Charles asks with less interest.

‘A serial killer.’

‘Serial killer?’

‘Yes. Don’t know his name, but they call him Man-eater, for he chops the humans into pieces and later eats them.

‘Geez!’ Charles makes the weirdest face Peter has ever seen.

‘I know. He has killed almost everyone in his relation. Seems he hates relatives.’

And I hate you’, Charles thinks. ‘How do you know?’

‘It’s all in the news. Don’t you watch T.V.?’ Peter then looks at his surroundings. No T.V. ‘Oh! I am sorry’, he apologizes.

‘It’s okay.’

‘It’s all written in the newspapers too. Everything about him’, Peter gulped.

‘Oh! Is police after him?’

‘Yes. Of course. He is wanted, dead or alive.’

‘Oh…okay!’ Charles begins to sweat. He immediately takes out his handkerchief and wipes his sweat.

‘You’re sweating?’ Peter is shocked.

‘No, it’s just…’

‘But I believe him to be a tough guy. He won’t be caught easily’, Peter beams. Charles sighs a little and joins Peter.

‘Would you like to have an apple?’ Charles asks Peter.

‘What? You…seriously?’ Peter is amazed.

‘Well yes. I’m sorry for my behaviour’, Charles apologizes this time.

‘It’s okay’, Peter smiles widely, leaving dimples on his cheeks.

Charles approaches the kitchen table and grabs an apple from the fruit basket. He then takes the knife and walks back to Peter. In a moment, Charle’s big face blocks the light from the bulb as he’s standing in front of Peter, smiling at him weirdly.

‘Shall we start?’ Peter beams.

‘Oh yes’, Charles smiles as he cuts the apple into pieces, keeps them in two plates and offers one to Peter.

‘Won’t you join?’ Peter asks Charles.

‘I will’, Charles puts a piece of apple in his mouth. It feels like juicy arrow piercing softly into his mouth. He can also feel the water flowing along with it. Peter looks at him in a way as if he would never see him again.

‘Brrrrrr’, Charles’ phone vibrates. He immediately reaches his pocket and takes out his phone. ‘Ahh!’ he says in frustration looking at the screen. ‘Spam message’, he keeps the phone on the table.

‘So…do you like art?’ Peter throws a question after almost a minute.

‘I love them.’

‘What kind of art?’

Suddenly a mosquito sits on Charles’ left wrist, committing his life’s biggest mistake as Charles immediately raises his paw and in a second hits himself hard, spilling out the blood in almost every direction.

‘Geez!’ Peter exclaims after watching Charles’ palm painted with red.

But Charles is beaming. He’s admiring the blood on his palm. His eyes filled with lust and a strong desire for that colour. He’s ecstatic after seeing it, as if it was his meal; as if he was longing for it. ‘Is he an animal?’ Peter thinks. ‘Is he the Man-eater?’

‘Blood art’, Charles replies, emerging from his imagination of lust and desire.

‘Sorry?’

‘The kind of art, you asked me, right?’ Charles is whimsical. Just a moment ago, he was looking at his palm like an animal, but now his kind gaze is at Peter; just a moment ago, his eyes were overflowed with an intentional desire for ‘blood’, but now all the love is being transmitted from his own eyes to the Peter’s; just a moment ago he was the most dangerous man in the world, but now he seems like the most innocent soul on this planet.

‘Oh yes, I did’, Peter tries to chuckle. After scrutinizing Charles’ behaviour and sudden change in his attitude, he is almost convinced that the Man-eater is no one else but the person right before him.

‘I thought of calling it ‘Bloody Art’, but that seemed disrespect to this art’, Charles chuckles. Do you know how it works?’

‘No’, Peter is all smiles.

‘Okay, I will show you’, Charles stands up immediately. ‘But you’ll have to come with me to my attic’, his one finger is pointing towards the stairs Peter hadn’t noticed until now, or didn’t bother to notice it.

‘Sure’, Peter stands up and takes his toolbox with him.

‘You can leave it here.’

‘I need them always’, Peter winks.

Both make their way to the attic. The churning voice of the wooden stairs seems to haunt Peter, but he is less bothered about it. As soon as they get to the attic, a filthy smell provokes Peter to cover his nose. It’s the smell of blood. It’s filthy enough to make a person vomit, or at least run out of there. But Peter chooses to stand there, keeping his eyes still on the wall, where there are a number of paintings, all painted with blood. The subject is not quite clear. There are many which seem to be made out of frustration- the line has been drawn without proper care, as the blood stains are visible on the wall too; in some of the paintings it seems that they show some sort of love affair, but if one looks at it from a different angle, he or she would come to find that they actually depict war between the humans.

‘Do you like them?’ Charles asks directly.

‘Yes, of course. How do you do it?’

‘Oh yes.’ Charles approaches the knife kept on a table beside him. It is encrusted with blood. ‘See…like this’, he takes the knife and pierce it into his palm. Blood emerges out immediately from his skin.

‘Don’t panic’, he tells Peter. ‘That’s how you do it.’

‘It’s stupid.’

‘Maybe, but it gives me immense pleasure. You also try’, Charles pleads.

‘Okay’, Peter gives a big smile, then takes the knife from Charles and does exactly what he did. Meanwhile, Charles locks the door.

‘Why are you locking it?’

‘My paintings demand solitude. They don’t like anyone barging in this room without my permission’, Charles looks at his paintings while telling so.

‘What was that?’ Peter thinks and resumes inserting the knife to his skin.

While Peter is busy taking out the blood, Charles places himself behind him. Gradually, he approaches towards him. In a second or so, Peter senses Charles behind him. He immediately turns back.

‘Yes?’ he asks.

‘There!’ the people outside yell at the police officers, directing them towards Charles’ apartment. It’s 11: 30 p.m. now. The rain has not stopped yet. The people have crowded themselves outside the apartment, carrying umbrellas with them. The police officers, all wearing black raincoats, make their way to the first floor, from where the filthy smell of blood is coming, which had bothered the people standing around that building. The multiple rays of torch lights seem to make a labyrinth in the room, eradicating the darkness. The officers take each step with caution, holding a gun in their one hand and the torch in another. As soon as they reach the first floor, they cover their nose immediately. Soon, they all take positions outside Charles’ room. ‘On the count of three…one…two…three’, the senior officer, Graham, says as the team barges into the room. Everything is at its place. There is no sign of scuffle in the room. Two empty plates are kept on the table along with the knife. There is also a mobile phone kept there.

Graham looks at his aura, and then sends an order, ‘You! Check the entire room properly’, he then turns to another officer, ‘And you see if there is any relevant information we can get from that phone! Inform me if there is…’ ‘Yummy’, the voice from the attic comes. All the officers are alert. ‘There’, Graham whispers loudly. ‘You both stay here’, he orders both the officers, ‘…and the rest of you come with me upstairs.’

They carefully step on the stairs in order to avoid any noise, and can easily hear each other’s breathing, apart from the voice coming from the attic, ‘Yummy, delicious!’

Finally, they reach the door and take their positions. One of the officers pushes the door hard, but it doesn’t open. He tries it twice, but the same thing happens.

 ‘It’s locked’, he tells.

‘Okay, break it then!’

‘Thud! Thud!’ as they try to break the door, the voice from the inside falls silent. They push the door harder. ‘Bang!’ after five attempts, the door finally falls to the ground. The room is reeking, to such an extent that one officer runs out of the room to vomit. The others take notice of their aura. The walls are painted with blood. The toolbox is opened and kept under it are knives, saws, and a few body organs. The paintings are ruined, and some of them have fallen on the floor, where human organs are cut into pieces and thrown away- nose, ears, legs, fingers, and the head- its eyes are open, and it looks horrible. It is Charles’ head.

The officers look at each other in shock. Without wasting a moment, they search for Peter- the Man-eater. They move forward with precaution. Any kind of carelessness can lead them to death. The attic isn’t too large in size, so it would not take them much time to find the culprit. They check through each corner, but Peter isn’t there. Now, only one corner is left, and all the officers gather together.

‘Listen’, Graham said, ‘…we don’t want him alive. He has been troubling us for almost two months now, and now it needs to be ended. We will all go together, and if he tries to pounce on us, just shoot him, got it?’

‘Yes’, the officers replied in unison.

Now, they moved slowly towards the corner. Each of them walking as slowly as they can. Peter can pounce on any of them, so they need to be quick. As they draw closer, the slurping sound increases, ‘Yummy!’ Peter mumbles. There is now an inch gap. Graham catches a glimpse of Peter, who is licking Charles’ arm. He takes a step ahead, and as soon as he makes eye contact with Peter, the latter jumps on him.

‘Bang! Bang!’ he fires two shots at Peter, who is on the floor now, groaning with pain. Soon, he steps aside and all others shoot at Peter, making multiple holes into his body. He is still at his position, and just after a few breaths, falls silent, with his eyes opened.

The sweepers are called and the attic is cleaned. The officers congratulate each other on this victory. Soon, two officers come up into the attic, ‘Sir’, one of them says, ‘…I have found a message in this phone.’ He hands over the phone to Graham, who reads the message loudly:

“Man-eater always wears a green cap and carries an orange toolbox with him. Just beware of him. Stay safe. Number unknown”, he sighs. ‘Poor man, no doubt he had come to know that Peter was the psycho killer, or say, the Man-eater. He wanted to kill him, but ended up being his prey.’

The ambulance has arrived by now. Peter’s dead body is carried into the ambulance. Some officers sit inside the ambulance, while others prepare to depart and sit inside their cars. The rain has stopped by now, leaving the wet road shining with the lights of the vehicles.

The engine starts and the ambulance is about to leave. Graham bangs the door, after lighting up a cigarette for himself.

 ‘Take him away!’ he orders.

Photo by Kadijah on Unsplash

Saiyed Farooq Jamal
Saiyed Farooq Jamal is an aspiring writer who is currently pursuing English Honours from Jamia Millia Islamia and lives in New Delhi.

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