Superhero in the making

Chapter 2

Kim took a two-day leave from her office as she had some work in the local municipal office and many other errands to run as they moved into the locality quite recently and there are many things yet to settle. Being a single mother, she was running from pole to post to make things work and give her daughter a comfortable life.

After dropping Nora at her school she headed towards the municipal office with the requisite documents to register herself and her daughter in the local population. But work at government offices isn’t all hunky dory at all. The officer asked her to come back later as they marked little discrepancies in the documents. Kim requested to see if something can be done on the spot but the officer didn’t budge. With a smile he said “I would have if I could have. Unfortunately I have to follow the norms. You can come next week” and flashed the lunch-break board on the counter.

Unhappy at the turn of events, Kim dragged herself back to the house. With a lot of work pending at the house as well, her displeasure didn’t linger on for long. She got busy cutting the fluff, and arranging and decorating the house to her and especially to Nora’s liking. In the process, she unpacked a box of memories. A bunch of photographs, an old hand-knitted scarf, a few postcards, books, and a locket. Time seemed to have frozen for her. The contents of the box pushed her back in time. Lanes of the place where she grew up, her parents, her friends, her first and only love Joel, holding Nora for the first time in her arms, her pet, laughter, fights, hugs, tears, fears, adventures, mistakes, forgiveness, and more. She could see everything happening as if she was in some time loop. She took the scarf and inhaled deeply as she held it close to her heart. Her grandmother knit that scarf for her on her 15th birthday. The warmth and fragrance are still intact and a lump formed in her throat. Emotions choked her. Finally, she caught hold of the locket lying beneath the postcards. An oval-shaped turquoise crystal locket that was cracked. She gently brushed the surface of the locket with her thumb and closed it in her palm and drew the same closer to her lips. Tears blinded her sight as they travelled from her eyes, collecting the rosy hue of her cheeks and painful sighs from her lips and resting on her closed fists placed under her chin that had the locket.

“You no more exist for us from this very moment. Take your stuff and leave” a stern father ostracised his very own daughter whom he loved so dearly. Kim kept staring as the doors shut right in her face.

Someone banging on the door incessantly brought Kim back to her senses. She went to check but could find no one. Got inside and noticed that it was almost time to pick up Nora from school. She hurried up and reached school.

As the school bell rang, the air was filled with fun and frolic as the chirping kids made their way out of the classrooms towards the school gate. They called it a day and had many things to share that transpired throughout the day. They were gushing about the details of the day, smiling ear to ear, waiting for their loved ones to pick them up. Amidst those happy faces, Kim spotted the sulking face of Nora, which by the time had turned red matching the tie of her school uniform.

“Aww, my darling what happened to you? Why are you sad? Did something happen at the school? Did you have a fight with your friends? Did anyone say something to you?” Kim asked a sad-looking Nora.

“My friends call me funny, I told them not to” complained Nora rolling her eyes. Her mother smiled and said that it isn’t bad to be funny and asked what has actually transpired.

Rubbing her nose, Nora replied “Meetu’s mom came early to pick Meetu and she is friends with our teacher. She was showing her new necklace to the teacher and I saw her pet dog making faces. The dog was saying she is just showing off, it was all fake. I told the same to my friends and they are laughing at me. I am not lying, I heard it, I promise. I am not going to talk to them now” Nora threw a fit of a tantrum.

Kim didn’t know how to react to that story. She was smiling at the innocence of the kid and was wondering at the same time what has made her cook up this story because she was convinced that this story is Nora’s brainchild, probably due to reading too many fantasy stories. But she didn’t want to upset Nora further at this point. She lovingly put her arms around Nora’s shoulder and said “next time you hear anything like that you can share it with me. I am all ears to such interesting conversations. And such banters are common in school, I too have had many such incidents where my friends laughed at me. Let it go. They will too forget by tomorrow. Would you like to have ice cream now?”.

This proposal lifted up Nora’s spirits and she was exhilarated with joy. “Yes of course mom, I would like to have a chocolate ice cream”.

Mother and daughter went to a nearby ice cream parlour and ordered ice cream. As they were waiting for the order to arrive, a rat coming out of the small hole in the godown adjacent to the shop caught Nora’s attention. She heard the faint voice of the rat saying “let me hurry up and go home, I have to inform my family that that dreaded cat is in the town. We need to find a safe haven”. The rat soon disappeared and the ice cream arrived. Nora this time didn’t pay much attention as she indulged herself in devouring the taste of ice cream.

Superhero in the making

Chapter 1

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” seven-year-old Nora asked her mother Kim innocently. ” Kim chuckled as she replied, “I am already a grown-up being, what could I possibly be now? Now hurry up and go to your bed”. She tucked little Nora into her bed and kissed her forehead “goodnight darling!”

On having received such an unenthusiastic response from the mother, Nora clasped and questioned her mother “what you wanted to be as a child, as in what have you dreamt of becoming in your adulthood? My teacher says everyone has a talent and a dream and we can turn our dreams into reality at any time and age. So tell me mom what you wanted to be?” and fixed her gaze filled with amusement and intrigue on her mother.

Kim smiled and sat down by her bedside “Hmm, I always wanted to be a writer. I wanted to talk through my stories”. Her mother’s response sparked Nora’s interest and she sprung and sat in her bed. “You mean fairy tales, superhero stories? Have you ever written anything? Why don’t you write now?” before Nora could go berserk with her volley of questions her mother sighed deeply “uff, we will talk later darling, you have to get up early tomorrow for school”. And finally, she managed to put little Nora to sleep.

Nora’s mother kept tossing in her bed but couldn’t sleep that night. That was unusual as toiling throughout the day guaranteed her a sound sleep instantly.  She kept staring at the ceiling and counted sheep in her head but nothing was helping her tonight.  She heard her daughter crying. She rushed towards Nora’s room.

“What happened, dear? a worried mother asked her daughter as she embraced the weeping child. “Mom, I had a horrible dream. Big monsters wearing huge cloaks, and riding on horses were chasing after me and as I tried to escape them I was stuck in a corner” Nora explained in her shaky voice. Nora’s mom cuddled, pacified her, and gave an assurance that there are no monsters around and that it was just a dream. Nora requested her mom if she could sleep with her, to which her mom agreed. Kim caressed Nora’s hair gently and soon Nora slipped into a deep slumber. But Kim couldn’t.

She got up and went to her balcony. She leaned on the railing of the balcony facing the vast empty parched grounds. The streets turned golden under the glare of yellow street lights. The city was tucked in silence except for the noise of a few vehicles honking on the highway running parallel to the grounds and stray dogs barking distantly. She was pondering over her conversation with her daughter. “Can I dream again?” She sighed in her thoughts as the gentle breeze caressed her locks. 

Kim and Nora moved to their new apartment just six months back after a major crisis hit their family. Joel, Kim’s husband, army personnel who died on the war front. Along with the loss of a loved one Kim and Nora were coping with the snide remarks and the unruly behaviour of the relatives. Nora never understood the motivations behind people’s behaviour around her. She often asked her mother “why is everyone rude to us? What have we done? You told me that dad is a superhero, he is not around us anymore, so do we have to suffer this way forever? Why do they hate us, Mom?”. Kim didn’t know how to answer her. But finally, she decided to move out and away from the toxicity suffocating her and her daughter’s life. 

Standing underneath the dark stretch of the night sky on her balcony, Kim just witnessed a rally of visions from her past. She felt exhausted and went back to her room and finally dozed off. 

The next day began with a usual hustle and bustle. Nora and her mother rushed off to school. As they were on their way Nora commenced the conversation from the very point where she had left it last night. Inquisitive Nora clung to her mother’s arm and fired her bazooka of questions at her mother “Mom, tell me what did you write? When did you write? Why did you stop writing? Will you start writing again? Tell me, mom, tell me”.

Nora’s mother was enjoying this conversation with her little one. Nora’s questions exuberated innocence, and the curiosity in her tone tickled her mother’s heart. With a big grin, she replied to Nora “I used to write when I was in college, whosoever read my poems and articles used to praise me. My work was even published in my college magazine. My name is there, I will show you the next time when we go to Naani’s place (maternal grandmother). It seemed that the child’s naivete and glee has rubbed onto her mother too. She was smiling from ear to ear. Conversation with Nora always felt fresh as drops of dew sitting on the soft petals and had the warmth of golden rays of sun embracing those petals as they danced to the tunes of the morning breeze.

They reached the school. Nora gave a kiss on her mother’s forehead and bade goodbye but before leaving she put forth a request. “Mom, you have to write a story for me. I will be the superhero or a fairy, an angel in that book. You write it for me, I will show it to my friends. Please mom” she giggled cutely and left for her school.

 On her way back home Kim called her mother  “Mom, how are you? Do you still have my college magazine at home that had my article and poem published?” She spoke almost in a single breath. Kim called her mother after nearly after a period of six months. The response from the other side was cold but her mother assured her that she will search for the magazine and hung up on the call.

Kim felt disheartened but had much more to take care of, so she assembled pieces of her broken heart once again and marched ahead with responsibilities on her shoulders…

Hey Don’t Call Me Aunty!!

Originally posted On Candles Online.

What hurts a woman the most? The word “hurt” is making this an emotional saga and definitely, I am not in a mood to tell one. So let’s change it to ” Enrage”. Yes, that makes it powerful 😉. So what can enrage a woman and invite her ire almost at the drop of a hat? Call her a bad driver she can still pardon you. Call her a nagger, you still have chances to watch that football match with friends. Illogical, argumentative, gossip lover – you still have bleak chances of making it safe. But one thing that guarantees a woman’s “you are so dead” look is calling her Aunty!!!!!

(Picture Credit – Google Inc.)

**Important Note: Don’t try the above-mentioned stunts at home**

Imagine a 25 year old lady who just delivered a baby and haven’t shed the extra kilos gained during her pregnancy is called Aunty by some random odd 50+ old salesman at the shop counter. This is exactly what happened to someone really close to me, it was me only 😂. Standing just 5 feet 3 inches from the ground, weighing around 81kgs I seriously looked like a sack of potatoes. But in my head, I was no less than a Greek Goddess who has draped a beautiful saree. Having an illusionary parallel world is important it seems, at the end of the day a happy mind scores over a svelte figure. Though I was 25, the different changes my body has just experienced I looked older than I was. Kids in their late teens started calling me Aunty, vendors who were double or triple my age replaced the sophisticated “Madam” with “Didi” which means elder sister. Elder sister to a man who crossed six decades !!!! That was heartbreaking, demotivating to say the least 😁. I was not “ageing” but looked aged 😱.

Blame it on pregnancy or hormones in play, gaining weight isn’t the only concern. A double date of pimples with wrinkles are so determined to make sure I am grounded well. 35 years of age (can we trend 10 years challenge again? Just asking 😁), my ageing process has been a roller coaster ride. Dresses that look fabulous on catalogues poke me with sarcasm in the trials and the mirror shouts “any flat tyre there, we have a spare here”. Then only the swollen under eye area shouted “we have carry bags too”. Acne scars in late thirties so adamant to leave lecture me freckled face is in. And I am like ” you no freckle but a damn pimple”.

Being Called Aunty is still ok: Since last year for god only knows reason hormonal imbalance has added another feather in my cap – excessive facial hair growth, especially the chin area. Slowly I have come terms with being called Aunty. I explained to myself – it’s ok sabka time aayega (no one is going to stop ageing). I might have aged a bit too early and fast. Let it sink. And I moved on in life until I realized what if people now start calling me Uncle due to the stubble I am growing 😂😂. I would like to thank my mask here for masking my imperfections as well. That reminds of an incident that happened 18 years ago – a time when I was not introduced to the magic of Salon yet. A friend of mine made fun of how I am having a moustache, my kids would be confused whom to call papa😂😂. Now those ghosts haunt me again . Damn these hormones 😡😡.

Dr. Google consulted: The moment I realized my face has too many folds on its linen I consulted Dr. Google. I have been prescribed everything – from dripping egg to sticky honey; from colourful turmeric to plain white rice powder along with tomatoes, cucumber, potato and possibly everything under the sun used in the kitchen. Results were not visible but my face told me “idiot you missed the pan, leave me alone first get your eyes checked”. When you hit panic buttons you are eager to try everything with an anticipation of quick results. Acceptance of the fact that you are ageing is one thing and earnest efforts to make sure it isn’t visible is another ball game that everyone participates in. So did I. So what if I had to wipe the entire kitchen floor after my beauty treatment; so what if my 5 years old called me a monster and tucked in blanket; so what if the application literally impairs me from speaking or laughing to avoid more wrinkles and all I could do is mumble to add to the annoyance of others (read husband). Say no die is the mantra 😁.

How to keep oneself motivated: To lose weight, to have that youthful look on face, to let the world guessing what your age could be one needs to have a disciplined regime and diet. Walking, cardio, lifting, protein diet, yoga – in short whatever our celebrities say they do to look flawless and carved. I charge up myself for such meticulous plan, determined to push few pounds and years back. Salads graced my plate until an ice cream enticed me towards it. One scoop, two scoop – and the drama begins.

Brainwhat are you up to? This isn’t the plan.

Hearthow naïve you are dear brain! Let her eat and enjoy till she can. At the dusk of life this is not possible. Life is so short to curb oneself from little pleasures.

BrainWhat about her plan to look like that celebrity?

HeartLol, celebrity has to stay in limelight, it’s business, showbiz, completely professional. We shouldn’t mix personal and professional things – I mean her personal with their profession. Does it make sense or not?

Brain(gave up) ok then don’t complain later 😏.

And I savoured the third scoop!.

Moral of the story : I have come up terms with life. Aunty, Behen ji, Didi – no problem, I am sport for everything. Sab Moh Maya hai (everything is illusionary). Ageing is inevitable, for someone way too fast and early and for some a bit restrained, nonetheless it happens. What matters is health – physical and mental. And for everything else : Beauty is internal .😉❤️

I Sense A Presence XI

“Not for once he cared to know the details of Josh. Is it trust or indifference? This man never fails to puzzle me” Sally kept thinking for a while as her eyes followed Henry before he vanished from her sight.

As he went away she picked up her phone and instantaneously called Josh.

“Hi, Josh, Sally here. Henry told me about your call. Tell me” Sally stretched herself a bit as she started speaking to Josh.

“Are you ok or it is your normal regime to get up around this time” Josh had a pinch of sarcasm mixed with concern in his tone. “Saw you a bit worried yesterday, that’s why called to check up on you” Josh mentioned his reason to call her.

“Yeah I am fine, it’s just that I couldn’t sleep last night, nothing to worry about” Sally replied. After a brief chit chat, she invited Josh to home over that weekend since he is in the same city, to which he cordially agreed too but instead of a weekend a weekday was agreed upon.

As she ended the call Henry entered the room to check upon Sally. He found her to be in a relatively calm state of mind. He sat beside her, held her hand compassionately, and asked ” is there anything that is tormenting you?” looking deeply into her eyes. Sally sighed deeply “can you read my mind?” and silence ensued as they kept looking into each other’s eyes and Sally broke down in tears. Yet not a word said as Henry embraced her in his arms and let her drench him in her vulnerabilities and fears flowing through her eyes. This type of emotional breakdown was not new to him.

After a while, she was tranquil and announced to Henry about Josh. Resting on his chest, fiddling her fingers with his “Honey, I have invited my friend Josh to our place for lunch. He was my senior in college and now in the police department. He moved to this city recently. Though I wanted him to be here this weekend but due to the nature of his work, he decided to come over on Thursday. He will join us for lunch, so I would love you to be around that day.

Henry heard her and drew back his arm that was resting around her on her shoulder. Sally noticed this gesture, yet was waiting for his response looking at him. “Honey I would love to welcome him but Thursday would be a tough call for me. Anyways, you guys carry on, I shall meet him some other day. Since he is in the same city we shall meet more often” Henry replied but his usual warmth was a bit amiss. But Sally didn’t mind that. 


Thursday (around 12:30 PM) :

Josh arrived with white carnations, Sally’s favourite flowers. “You still remember!!!” Exclaimed Sally as she warmly welcomed Josh into her house. She apologized for the absence of Henry at lunch. “Sorry Josh, how I wish you could meet Henry, my husband today. But his work kept him engaged..” and before she could conclude Josh picked up “and the other day it was you, give the poor chap space lady” and winked. This is the Josh she knew over the years – witty and sarcastic.

They had lunch and walked down the memory lane for a while. And then the conversations returned to the present. “How long has it been in this part of the city?” Josh casually asked. “Been here for a couple of months now. Father’s demise made it difficult for me to stay in our old house. I was losing myself. So Henry proposed to move out, so here we are. But this house seems to have some character. Did you know that I discovered a patch on the kitchen wall that resembled the face of a woman, it scared me to no end before it was painted” Sally shared her experience and offered a tour of the house to Josh.

“It’s beautiful” quipped Josh, looking at every nook and corner he was shown. He was soon taken to the basement and to the very room where Sally found the diary. “Woah!! This house surely seems to have a character or two looking at this basement or this is your preparation for Halloween?” Josh cracked a joke looking at the basement that had a bizarre vibe to it.

Both had a good laugh about it. It was 5:30 in the evening when Josh received an emergency notice to report at the station. He left hurriedly. But came back in about an hour as he forgot his wallet at Sally’s place.

This time both Henry and Tracy were present and were formally introduced by Sally. The instant reaction of Josh while shaking hands with Tracy was that of déja Vu “Why does it feel that this isn’t our first meeting”. To this Tracy rolled her eyes and smiled sheepishly. She was a beautiful woman after all and such remarks were not new to her. Sally was a bit surprised at this behavior of her friend though but she dismissed further pondering.

Josh left.


Around 11:00 PM Sally’s phone vibrated. It was Josh. “I have a piece of news for you. This is about Tracy. I was not wrong. I have met her before. She isn’t Tracy Tucker but Lizzy – a wanted fugitive” Josh broke the news.

“WHAT” Sally was in shock…..

I Sense A Presence X

Sally’s gaze was fixed on the diary but. She stood at the window all night long as a motionless statue but her mind was raging. There were tornadoes, volcanoes, whirlpools swirling, erupting, and devastating her from within. She wanted to cry, shout, scream but it seemed as if something caged her at this moment. 

Hours passed and it was dawn. Henry woke up around 6 AM and was terrified for a moment to see a motionless and emotionless Sally standing at the window staring at him without batting an eyelid. It seemed as if she was possessed.

“Are you ok honey?” Henry quizzed as he got from the bed to get a hold of Sally. But before he could touch her she collapsed. Her body couldn’t take more.

“Sally!!” Screamed Henry catching her. He lifted her to the bed, placed her body comfortably. Meanwhile, Tracy entered their room as she heard Henry screaming.

“I heard you screaming, what happened? What happened to Sally?” Tracy asked as she looked at unconscious Sally.

“I don’t know, when I woke up I found her standing at the window, looking pale and ghostly. When I tried to reach her she collapsed” explained Henry.

Tracy without furthering the discussion or showing any concern asked Henry if he would be going to the office today or shall she start without him.

Henry gave a stern look to Tracy but cordially replied “gonna take a leave today, can’t leave Sally in this condition. And to think otherwise is stupidity, to say the least”.

To that reply Tracy walks up to Sally, settles beside her and gently caresses her hair, and says “yeah, she will need a lot of care now (emphasizing on the last two words). Ok I shall take your leave now” and she left the room and Henry returned to Sally. As he was attending Sally, Tracy turned her head once more to get a glimpse of them over her shoulder. She had a smirk on her face.

Around 2 PM Sally woke up, struggled to get up straight as her head was in immense pain, and felt dizzy. Henry at once dashed to her to help her. But even in such misery, she was cold to the concern that Henry showed. He noticed that at once.

“Look I explained myself yesterday itself that how Tracy ended up at dinner with my client. To accept it or scrutinize my words is your call. I can handle your unwelcoming, cold, suspicious behavior towards me. That’s not my concern, people do change. This is surely not you, I mean not the one I know or have known. My worry is what or who is changing you” and he left Sally to ponder over his words as he got busy arranging lunch for her.

Resting her head on the pillow she turned to her left with Henry’s words now echoing in her head. She thought ” Am I getting influenced, is there anything that is taking a toll on my common sense and understanding of circumstances”. She was immersed in her thoughts while looking at the diary as Henry entered the bedroom with lunch. She was so lost in her thoughts that “adventures and miseries” of Anne Turner couldn’t magnetize Sally to pick and turn to read the next turn of events in her life.

Sally and Henry had lunch in utter silence. Henry got up to wind up the dishes after the lunch. But before leaving he once again paused at the threshold “by the way honey I forgot to tell you a guy called Josh called when you were asleep”.

This made Sally a bit uncomfortable as she never disclosed anything about Josh to Henry, though she has been in touch with him for quite some time now. “Oh, Josh! Wh..what he was saying? She enquired in an inquisitive yet shaky tone.

“He asked you to call once you are awake, nothing in particular. Call him” Henry gestured to give a call and left. He left Sally in a guilt ride by not asking Who, Where, What…….

I Sense A Presence IX

Josh didn’t ask anything further, though he felt that Sally’s request was absurd and she left.

Josh has known Sally for quite some time now. He has seen her sensitive side, he has seen how she could hesitate to empty her heart and needed persuasion to vocalize her emotions and thoughts. A tiff with one of her best friends over her boyfriend whom Sally thought wasn’t right for her, left Sally disarrayed for weeks. It took a lot of insistence by her other friends including Josh as well to pull her out of the shell she has drawn herself into. After that tussle, Sally was never seen talking to her friend though she made her efforts to be in the good books of Sally again as her boyfriend ditched her who left the city with just a casual note addressed to her.  

As their paths crossed each other after years that old image of Sally loomed large in front of Josh as the petite figure of Sally diminished.

“Hmm, she is unsettled again” he sighed and retreated to his office.

Sally drove back with her head and heart full of the convict she met at the police station. His demonic demeanor invaded her thoughts. Cold sweat trickled down her spine as she rushed through the empty roads surrounded by dense woods. She was driving at such a speed as if someone or something was chasing her on those desolate streets. As Sally was lost in her incoherent thoughts “THUD” something hit the speeding car so hard that for a moment it shook the car. The tyres made a screeching sound bringing the car to a halt and Sally got down to see what was it.

She could find nothing but a trail of blood running towards the woods. “Gosh Sally What have you done!” She exclaimed and held her forehead in disbelief. She wanted to check as she inched a few steps further in the direction of the blood into the woods. But the very sight of blood, deserted road had made her put off her plans and run towards her haven – her home while she apologized for the unknown creature that she hurt in her thoughts.

As Sally reached home she got a call from Henry. “Darling I have a dinner plan with a client and I will be late tonight” and he hung up.

Sally quickly retreated to her bedroom. She needed a strong distraction from the tornado of negative emotions and thoughts she was experiencing at that very moment. And her eyes showed her a way out, the diary was still lying there. She picked up and continued.

…. you chose to trade them with a charade. The charade of emotions being reciprocated.

“Interesting” Sally thought as she turned pages and continued to read.. your attention short-lived, affection faded and admiration died towards me. We are now strangers in the guise of a relationship.

Page-turns ….. I saw you snuggling with that witch in those sheets that still has my imprint all over. Can anything else be more painful than to see your heart being torn apart by someone who dwells in there…..

Sally felt for the woman as she got a sneak-peek through these ragged pieces of paper. As she was sympathizing with the stranger she was reading about she heard a faint giggling sound of a woman. She went close to her window as she was sure that it was from outside.

She was greeted with a sight of bewilderment. It was Tracy, in an inebriated state and that was not the case of concern for Sally. It was her closeness to Henry that made Sally’s heart pound faster. She is a beautiful woman after all!!

Henry helped Tracy reach her room as she giggled and blabbered throughout. As he turned back, was taken aback by Sally who stood behind him.

“Oh my God! You scared the hell out of me Sally!” exclaimed Henry, loosening his tie and making his way to the bedroom. “Is it? How? Have I caught you? By the way, how was the dinner with the client? Was Tracy a part of your job? I am all ears for all your answers” Sally was unprecedented in the way she behaved – taunting, sarcastic. She has seen Henry with many beautiful women before too, but never for once a speck of doubt even faintly crossed her mind as she never felt that things were out of control ever. But today it was not the same. Something is playing with her mind. She has been given a different prism to look at the situation.

Henry did come up with his explanations as to how Tracy ended up in the scene but was received by a rather cold Sally.

It was around 10:30 PM, Sally stood near her window staring at Henry who was sleeping blissfully. Her stares were blank, emotionless. After standing at the window for an unreasonably long time, an unsettled Sally looked pale, her emotionless reflection in the mirror was nothing less than spooky. As the stares crossed Henry and reached her side drawer the diary was there, enticing her to dig deeper…..

**Is the life of Anne Turner the new prism for Sally?**

I Sense A Presence VIII

As Sally drove to the police station she was quite restless. “Who it could be and why?” resonated all along in her mind. The flurry of emotions made her jump few red lights too, but was fortunate enough not to meet any untoward incident.

She was received by Josh Edward, police officer and Sally’s senior in the college. They used to represent their college in chess and were members of college’s debate society. They shared a good rapport. It was by chance that he was assigned this particular case. They were seeing each other after almost a decade and the reunion wasn’t cheerful at all considering the situation surrounding it.

“Hello Sally, how are you” Josh greeted her cordially extending his hand for a handshake. His gesture was met with a nervous smile that stayed just for a fraction of seconds. “I want to know” Sally said in a rather shaky voice, fixing her impatient gaze on Josh’s face.

“This way please” Josh guided Sally towards the interrogation cell. She saw a frail looking man there at the centre of the room that had just a table in the centre and two chairs on both sides of it. One was occupied by the man, who could be in his late 40s or early 50s, had salt and pepper hair & beard, lean build, hands were cuffed and was staring the ceiling & walls of the empty room. There wasn’t a slightest hint of nervousness or fear on his face that ought to be evident from a convict’s face. He was calm and static as a stone and cold as grave.

Sally observed him from behind a window and asked Josh “is he the one?” The fragile frame of the man had churned the wheels of confusion in Sally’s mind for her late father was a well built man.

“Investigation is running in full throttle. You mentioned in your statements of having seen a masked person running away. And he is a serial killer infamous for his signature Mask. The police has been on a lookout for him for 10 cases in and around the city, including your father’s…” Josh was still talking when Sally stormed into the interrogation room.

“Did you kill my father? Did you kill Mr.Pattinson? Answer me” Sally was mad with rage, as she banged her fist on the table. She thought her emotions can evoke a reaction from the convict. But she was wrong. He was still composed in a quirky manner.

Looking away from Sally, he said in a soft tone “I don’t remember names. I just love the sound of crackling bones, sight of gushing blood gives me an adrenaline rush, the wailing bodies are symphony to ears. I have only numbers – 1,2,3,4…”. He was chuckling as he counted. This enraged Sally even more. She opened her phone gallery and showed her father’s picture to him “I am sure this would ring your memory bells. Now tell me why you killed him” Sally boomed at him. He looked at the photo for a moment but before he could say anything Sally was taken out of the room by Josh citing the norms and regulations of the interrogation laws.

Sally was now impatient than ever, awaiting his answer, rather a confession.

As Josh entered the scene he asked the convict about Mr.Pattinson “you are the masked killer, isn’t it? Confess it”.

The convict took a deep breath and started laughing like a lunatic. The room was echoing with his cynical laughter. After few moments he stopped, catching his breath and said “someone used my signature to hide their identity. And when I say signature I mean my identity, would never hide it. This man was never my target. But yes other 1,2,3,4….” he whistled a rhythm. His unruffled calmness opposed to the raging tempers made his words sound menacing even in those secured doors. Josh left the room.

Came to Sally who was in the other room having a view of the interrogation cell. Before she could bombard him with her questions, he took his cigarette case and left for the smoking area. Sally followed him.

After few puffs, having calmed down his nerves he said “May be we are knocking a wrong door. If he could confess about killing his other victims, I see no reason him denying this. Something is missing. Someone might have used his trademark Mask modus operandi. I am sorry for unnecessarily troubling you Sally. Ufff” he sharply exhaled. Sally was calm now.

She just patted on his arm as if saying “its ok”. And she went silent. But her silence couldn’t camouflage her nervousness. “Is there anything you want to say Sally?” Enquired Josh.

“Nothing” Sally dismissed the question with a smile. “Since you are in the city now, how about dinner this weekend, my place? Sally thoughtfully diverted the intriguing glares of Josh. But Josh knew that something was bothering Sally.

“Hmm, thanks for the invite. I shall let you know soon. Would love to meet your better half” Josh obliged.

Before leaving though Sally made a strange request “Josh, I forgot to tell you, don’t tell Henry about this meeting”.

I Sense A Presence VII

Sense of being choked to death in her sleep left Sally perplexed. She reached out to the glass of water on her bedside and saw the diary she was reading before she dozed off. Her fingers danced in confusion for a while that whether she should pick up the diary and start from where she has left. After a few moments of dilemma, she pulled the drawer, put the diary back, and picked up aspirin instead as the disturbed sleep left her with a severe headache.

Ward off bad dreams” grunted Sally, tossing in her bed. It was 4 AM when she finally slept. Four and a half hours later she heard some footsteps pacing up and down the room. It was Henry getting ready for the office. Around 8:30 AM he kissed her forehead and lovingly “Honey have a great day, I am leaving for the office”. Both indulged in a sweet moment as Sally acknowledged him while still keeping her eyes closed. But the harmony of the moment broke as there was a knock on the door and a voice followed “I am getting late HONEY”. It was Tracy, clicked her tongue and immediately corrected herself “I am getting late Henry, may I come in?”.

Her rectification couldn’t though avoid an awkward moment for Henry and Sally, it was uncomfortable for Henry and a suspicious one for Sally. Clearing his throat Henry said “her office is one the way so …

“I get that” interrupted stern Sally freeing Henry from her embrace and permitting Tracy to enter. The question “what’s going on, I need an explanation” was all over Sally’s face. Henry hasted to leave to avoid further tensions. “While you take out the car from the garage I will have a quick word with your beautiful wife” Tracy prolonged her stay in their bedroom.

Good morning Sally. I am sorry for the last evening and now as well. See, I can be weird sometimes with people I consider as my own. Whenever this past thing erupts I fumble, I go crazy, I….” and she paused for a while as she settled on Sally’s bedside, very close to her staring straight into her eyes. “Look at those beautiful eyes, so dark and dreamy, resting place to rainbow-clad dreams. I envy you my darling” Tracy had a certain amount of cynicism to her tone that can send shivers down the spine. Her words were not loud, just more than a whisper. They were like a whip of air catching someone from behind unaware on an absolute silent night – scary! They left Sally dumbfounded.

The moment froze for a few seconds and the stillness of the room was broken by the car horn on the road. “Bye, dear have a good day. Once again thank you and sorry for everything” Tracy left with a devilish smile leaving Sally at a junction of a conundrum.

“Am I overthinking about this lady or there is truly something to ponder or dig into about her? Was the entire Honey-Henry episode just a fumble or there’s something more to it than what meets the eye?” Sally’s head was buzzing with these questions as she left the bed and went to freshen up.

In the mirror, she saw herself and realized that her right arm is bruised, it turned blue. That sight brought the words from the book to her mind “bruises were my constant companions”. But she decided to brush everything under the carpet of coincidence. “Might have got these bruises in sleep” she shrugged and yet decided to know more what’s there.

She settled again on her bed comfortably and laid her hands on the diary, now it started from the beginning. By this time thought of Tracy was put at the backburner.

The first page had a small photo of a lady with a disfigured face and at the bottom was mentioned the name “Miss Anne Turner”.

“Hello, Lady,” said Sally to herself and continued. Those pages, to begin with, were just like any other ordinary diary – an in and out account of miscellaneous and mundane activities, incidents of one’s life. Sally wasn’t much interested in the petty chores of Miss Turner and she decided to go random. And she was successful in finding the interesting spot. It read:

I loved you with my heart, my smiles, my tears, my soul. But you chose to trade them with a ……

Before Sally could finish the portion (pale letters were a tough read) her phone rang. It was Josh, her friend from the police department.

“Hi Sally, I have a news for you. Its regarding your father’s murder. Can you come over?” Asked Josh. And this left Sally at the very same spot she was months ago, battling….

I Sense A Presence VI

Sally kept on her excavation to see what else this room hosts. There were more words engraved very minutely. They seemed to be cluster of bees, making it difficult for Sally to read. They were entangled mangle of letters. She could hardly phrase out – mad, free, go. That extra stress on her eyes made her shut down that exercise in the middle.

“Huh” grunted Sally as she shifted her focus to the rest of the room. In her quest she found a very dirty gown and wrapped in it a book, probably a diary. Pages have age written all over them, few were torn, writing was neat to begin with but slowly became more scribbled.

Sally took the diary upstairs and preserved reading for sometime later. In the evening Henry arrived with their guest – Tracy. Sally warmly welcomed her. Tracy was a 38 years old, beautiful looking woman. Standing 5 feet 5 inches tall, brown curly cascades of hair running till her waist, unmistakably enchanting honey glaze eyes and a figure that could make any woman envious and man go weak in knees. But Sally was looking beyond her physical appearance – a broken person from personal loss, just as herself.

“Sally thank you so much for having me” Tracy thanked Sally cordially, to which Sally smiled and said “most welcome” and they moved in. At the dinner table amidst the chit chat rounds Sally brought up the issue of Tracy’s mother.

“Tracy, by the way Henry told me about your loss. I can totally relate to your pain. May I know what happened to her and what about your father, where is he?” Sally’s eyes now fixed on Tracy waiting for her response.

Tracy went silent for a moment and after a pause she continued ” my mother meant the world to me. The loveliest person of my life had to suffer the most because of the love of her life, my father. Till her last breath she waited for him who abandoned her for another woman. That’s why I killed him”. That word engulfed the room in an eerie silence. Tracy’s eyes were stone cold, devilish anger veiled her beautiful face and the fish in the plate got butchered to shreds.

Henry coughed and Tracy came back to her senses. “What I meant was I wiped him out of my thoughts forever” and she gulped down a glass of water and excused herself to her room.

Sally was stunned to see Tracy’s behaviour but brushed it aside with a thought that emotions can be overwhelming and might make people say words that they didn’t mean literally. She only tried to understand her agony and pain. She apologized to Henry for having brought up this topic. She felt guilty. But Henry being Henry “Darling, don’t be, she can be extremely emotional sometimes. She will be fine, don’t worry, have your dinner”.

Sally went to the guest room in about five minutes to sort out the issue with Tracy. “Tracy I am sorry, I shouldn’t have spoken about your family at the dining table. I promise it shall never be repeated. Will catch up tomorrow, have a good sleep. Anything else you need don’t hesitate to ask me. My room is just over there” Sally pointed out towards her bedroom while apologising about the tense situation that arose few moments earlier. They hugged and Sally left.

Marching towards her room Sally turned to see Tracy once again. She could sense a steel cold vibe. “Oh Sally! give the poor soul time” she thought in her head and went to her room.

In the room she found Henry already hit the sack and in deep slumber. Sally lied down on her side of the bed, drew a drawer where she kept her new found diary. Turned some random pages. She could hardly read the paled out ink. With some tussle she could read ” I feel suffocated at nights as if someone gagging me to death. Bruises are now my new constant companions”. This gripped Sally but not before fatigue & sleep took over.

1:00 AM – Sally suddenly felt as if she is being strangulated. She wanted to move but couldn’t budge, felt chocked. In few moments She got up and sat straight gasping for breath , found none around. Was it just a dream or was someone here? Her thoughts set to tick…..

I Sense A Presence V

The sudden crashing and rattling of crockery and cutlery made Sally hop upwards. As she approached the dining hall, she saw milk spilled all over the floor, broken plates, butchered bread, and a whole lot of mess.

“Oh crap! What is this” exclaimed Sally tucking her hair behind her ear. Her eyes searched around the room for the cause of this botched up space but could find nothing but utter silence. As she took few steps towards the table she tripped on the wet flower. And her heart escaped a beat and a shriek let out of her mouth as she saw a pair of shiny eyes, sharp canines resembling to fangs of a demon flashed at her as if mocking her scared plight and zoomed out past the cat window. That was a cat indeed but shocked Sally for a moment. “What a notorious creature!” Sighed Sally and recovered herself and set to clean up the mess.

Just a few minutes into work, she was interrupted again by the noise of footsteps approaching the door of the dining hall she was in. Intrigued, she turned to see what or who else it could be. She had a frail sense of fear lingering in those eyes given the trauma she went through in the recent past. The door made a creaking sound, Sally froze and Henry entered with a bunch of flowers.

“Geez you scared me!! What are you doing here, so early? You told you had some really important meeting and would be late. What happened?” Clueless Sally fired away her canons of questions. Which were anyways met by as usual cool as cucumber Henry.

“Don’t you think you get scared more often and more than what is required” Henry continued his teasing tone “were you expecting anyone else?” Sally smirked, interrupting Henry “hahaha, very funny. I was not expecting anyone else and you either at this moment Mr.Teaser”.

“I told you I have all the bonafide rights to tease and trouble you. I technically lied to you to give you a surprise. Planned a dinner tonight. But what is this” Henry pointed to the disarray Sally was amidst of.

“Ah a cat from neighbourhood, not sure which neighbour though had one hell of a dirty dancing here as I was busy with few cartons to settle downstairs” Sally didn’t give the full account of her exploration stint in the basement though.

7:30PM, Riverdale Restaurant in the posh, upscale, busy part of the city, away from the silence clad quarters of the town where Sally and Henry live :

“Its good to be in this hustle bustle sometimes, to realise the beauty of silence” Henry made a deep statement that was received with a smile from Sally who was radiating in the light of candles at the table. Soon a waiter attended them, order was given – Scallop Risotto, mashed potatoes, well done steak, red wine to go with, tiramisu for dessert.

And as they waited their order to arrive, Henry had something important to ask.

“Darling, today at lunchtime as I was out for a sandwich I bumped into my high school friend, Tracy Tucker. It’s been quite a time since I last saw her. She is in city for some project work for three months, putting up at Hotel Belson. Talking to her I came to know that she has been going through really a rough patch off late. Something you can very well relate to”.

Mention of her name kindled some curiosity in Sally. She was more attentive to details now “I didn’t get you” she seeked clarification on his last statement.

“She lost her mother recently, her only companion throughout” Henry paused. “And I know that you know what it means to lose someone so close, what pain it causes, what trauma……..

Suddenly Henry realised Sally though listening to him had her uncomfortable past rallying past her eyes and he stopped.

He held her hands fondly and caressed them. “Honey I am sorry to bring up all this in such a beautiful moment. I am here today with a request. Can we welcome Tracy at our home to stay with us during three months of her stay in the city. I know it’s too much and out of the way to go for a friend but loneliness can be demonic. I don’t want to regret my inaction after losing a friend to such a demon that can be easily slayed. I need your permission for this.”

Henry put forward his entreat and awaited the response. Dinner arrived and was savored in silence. Silence ensued on the way back to home.

In the bedroom, tucked in sheets Sally broke the stillness of the atmosphere ” I like chocolate mousse better than Tiramisu just the way your Yes made me more happy than my Yes to you now can” and giggled embracing Henry lying beside her. “I am looking forward to meet your friend” Sally made things more clear and Henry ecstatic. They cuddled and kissed and the night passed like moonlit velvet.

The next day once Henry left for the office Sally got herself busy with the unassigned task of setting up the guest room for Tracy. She made the room quiet a comfortable one but doled out lot of “not actually waste” material. So another trip to the vault was simply imperative.

Work aside Sally couldn’t keep herself away from the tiny pocket of the basement which she couldn’t completely inspect in her last visit. She looked up and down the walls that had some unclear scribbles all over. Felt the weight of iron shackles lying there as snakes in slumber. Touched the chair covered in dust which seemed to have untold stories resting in its lap. Sally was measuring every inch of that room with her eyes and fingers. And then her fingers stumbled upon minute engravings, especially on the arms of the chair.

She started reading them slowly. The first thing she read was “comes the other woman”…….