I live in a one-bedroom rented house near the university. Of course, the hostel would have been a better choice, considering how deserted the area becomes after dark. However, the thrill of independence was something I couldn’t forego and, therefore, the decision.
College life is fun. I am not a child anymore, and I have my fair share of responsibilities in managing a house. Every other day I buy grocery and other household things that I might require. I cook and clean on my own. I do the laundry.
Today is no different, but as I walk back home, mentally calculating the day’s expenses, I hear a distinct thud-thud behind me. I look back scanning the thin crowd but cannot point anything out of place. The feeling of discomfort, however, makes me increase my speed, and I half-walk half-run the rest of the distance.
A few days pass by uneventfully, and I forget all about the incident. As I get back home from a friend’s birthday party, I am too tired to register the faint lingering smell of fresh spice and sea salt. I remove my jacket and dump my clothes on the floor and quickly jump on the bed. Some time later, as I toss and turn, I hear a faint screeching sound from somewhere. Deciding to investigate in the morning, I fall back into a heavy dreamless sleep.
I wake up to a stiff body and something pricking me at the side. As soon as my eyes are fully awake, I let out a piercing scream that comes out as a gurgle, because my mouth has been gagged. I am not on my bed; instead, I am in a closed space. A wooden box, maybe, covered with a lid on the top. My hands and legs are tied too.
I am unable to comprehend what is happening or why. Is this a nightmare? Where am I? How am I here? Who brought me here? Am I dying? Will I live? Have I been kidnapped? I want to scream. I am scared. Is it morning? How did I not wake up? Was I drugged? So many questions swirl in my mind, the answers to which are hidden behind the closed lid of the box. I try to move my body, I try to shout for help, but all efforts die down in the closed space. Suddenly, I hear a raucous laugh and I go still.
A gruff, masculine voice says, “Don’t try to waste your energy. You’ll never be able to get out from here.” After a pause, he continues sneeringly, “Who do you think you are? You think you can go about making others feel inferior? You think just because someone is always caught up in books, he is useless and has no life? You are wrong. And I am here to tell you, just about, how wrong you are.”
The coldness in the voice pierces my skin and flows through my blood, making me shiver. Tears escape my eyes as I long for the safety and warmth of my home. Despair seizes my heart as I realize that my safe haven was no longer safe.
I keep lying inside the box, without moving, for how long I do not know. Suddenly I hear the latch of the lid being removed and bright light blinds me for a few moments. Once my eyes adjust to the light, the masked face of the man comes into view. We are in my bedroom itself. He has a gun pointed at me in one hand and … is that food? My stomach growls at just that moment and I realize how famished I am.
“Do not try to scream or else I’ll shoot you,” he says harshly while untying my hands. I remove the gag from my mouth and grab the packet of food. The whole time while I eat, he has his gun pointed at me. After I finish, I whimper, “What do you want? What have I done?”
“Quiet, “he thunders, and I cringe in fear. “Now I’ll untie your legs and you’ll be allowed to use the loo for five minutes. One minute more and I’ll break down the door. You will not scream and you’ll not try to run, or else you know what I’ll do. Am I clear?” he asks and I give a slight nod.
The wheels of my mind start to run at a wild speed. I look around and try to calculate if I can make it out the door in time. I will have to try. As I stand on my feet, I can feel the blood flow to my legs. I slowly move towards the washroom trying to contemplate my chances. I quickly relieve myself and prepare to dash out the door. As I run towards the bedroom door, simultaneously two things happen- I hear a loud bang and the mirror, which I just passed, cracks with its glass pieces scattering around. I keep running and grab a knife from the kitchen, and then I wait for him to follow me.
When even after a few minutes, he doesn’t enter the kitchen, I tip-toe towards the bedroom and wait outside the door. He emerges outside, and I falter. His mask is removed, and his face is ghastly white.
I know him. He is my classmate; the one we all make fun of, for being a nerd. For a moment, guilt stops me from harming him, but then rage takes over and I stab him in the back … once, twice, thrice, again … I stab him till his lifeless body lies on the floor, surrounded in his own pool of blood.
I break down into sobs as I understand the horror of what I have done. I have just killed someone. I drag myself back to the bedroom, suddenly too exhausted.
As I enter the bedroom, however, I stop short in horror; a lot of blood lies on the floor, and there, next to the bed, in the coffin, is my dead body with a gunshot wound on the chest and a large wound on the forehead, where my head had collided with the mirror.