Shalina was preparing for her exams. She enjoyed the peace and quiet that her house gave her at this time.
This quietude was quite unusual for her household, which consisted of her old ma and papa and her annoying little sister, Simran. They had all gone to the wedding of a relative and she was home, alone for the night. She had a perfect excuse to give her books a miss.
She switched on the TV and was surfing channels, having finished her bowl of strawberry and peach ice-cream. She was looking forward to Arnab’s interview with her favorite comedian.
Ding Dong – her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the bell. Someone was at the door. She wondered who it could be, as all her neighbors had gone out of town and she was the only one on the floor of the building.
She opened the door without the safety latch but there was no one there on the landing. She peeped outside from her door and still didn’t find anyone. She quickly shut the door thinking it was Bitu, the neighborhood brat, up to his usual mischief.
She was just about to get ready to curl up on her sofa when the lights went out. Being in suburban Delhi, this was a normal occurrence, but the doorbell and the timing of the light going out played tricks on her mind.
She sat in the middle of the room hearing each and every sound and that’s when she heard a door opening, the distinct sound of her bedroom door being opened. Ma had complained that it was very squeaky and was going to have it repaired the following week.
She reached for her cellphone but realized that she had left it in the bedroom. It was being charged. Sweat trickled down her spine and her forehead.
“I love you, you love me”, she heard Simran’s favorite doll from the other bedroom.
She mustered some courage and tried walking towards the main door to her apartment and suddenly the lights came on.
She heard her cellphone ring its distinct tune; she felt as if someone was coming towards her with her cellphone.
She panicked, ran towards the main door, opened it and ran down the stairs and out of the building. She heard the door slam shut behind her, as she bolted down the stairs.
An old lady lived on the ground floor and Shalina was very fond of her. Gupta Aunty noticed her and shouted. “Shalina what are you doing out so late? Come here.” Shalina went into her house and sat with her in their sitting room. She didn’t know how to explain to Gupta Aunty what had just happened. She didn’t want to scare her too, since recently her BP was erratic. She just hugged Gupta Aunty and asked if she could spend the night at her house as her parents were out of town. She was welcomed heartily.
The next day morning, Gupta Aunty made tea and breakfast for Shalina. By now Shalina had forgotten about the previous night’s adventure as a nightmare and ascribed it to maybe the wind blowing and her bedroom door being opened.
She was just about to leave when Gupta Aunty stopped her and said, “Array, Shalina, don’t forget your phone; your friend dropped it here last night. She said that you may have dropped it on the road outside.”
“Such a sweet girl she was, just like a doll, brown hair plaited, and wearing a pink dress. I was wondering what she was doing so late at night, but she knew your name so I didn’t inquire. You should take care of your belongings. Two days back a similar thing happened to me: I was sleeping in the afternoon and another girl of the same age and quite similar to her came and returned my cellphone which I had forgotten at Pillai Aunty’s house. I went to get a glass of water for her, but she vanished. Just vanished.” she continued.
Shalina stood there frozen. She wanted to reach out to grab her cell phone but couldn’t. She inched closer to Gupta Aunty, took the cell phone and checked the phone log. There were no calls logged after the one she had made to her parents in the early evening the previous day. And then she noticed the headlines of a newspaper lying on the Gupta Aunty’s coffee table.
“Girl killed by speeding truck,” it said. The story further explained that Dolly Mathur was talking into her cellphone and didn’t see the truck coming and was killed instantly.
The location of the accident was just round the corner from her house and the incident had happened a week before.
This is a collaboration with the folks from TAW -Simran, Shalina, and K.
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