“Look at me, Lily, I am here to help you. You are safe here. No one is watching you,” said the therapist, trying to make an eye contact. “You can talk to me. Tell me what happened last night.”
I opened my mouth to answer his question, but I could only manage to huff out of exasperation, and threw a piercing look at him. My memory became hazy when I tried to dig harder. All of a sudden, his words became background noise and were overpowered by some disturbing thoughts. I felt a sharp pain in my head and sat there on the couch opposite to him, and flashed a stony gaze.
“Lily, Lily, Lily…,” he first spoke softly then raised his voice to gain my attention.
I snapped back to reality and found a quizzical look on his face. His eye were searching for answers in mine.
He heaved out a breath and broached a subject he was avoiding the entire morning. “Lily, I know this year, so far, has been very challenging for you emotionally as well as physically. I am afraid that the figure you claim to have seen last night in your flat is just a creation of your scared mind. So, you don’t have to be afraid. You just need to remind yourself that all is well.”
I dropped my gaze in disappointment. No one was ready to believe me. I clenched my fists and nodded my head in agreement. My body was drained of energy, and my mind was exhausted from running the scene from last night on repeat, and I was in no mood to venture into a fruitless argument.
Now, after this session, I hate John. At least, he could have understood me. How could he dismiss my request without running any careful search?
I booked this appointment only after his request. I felt betrayed. I felt as if it was his attempt to prove me wrong by letting me hear it coming from my therapist.
YOU ARE JUST BEING DELUSIONAL, LILY – those were his words. For him, I am delusional.
They, my therapist and my beau, were thinking that the man I saw last night, crouching out of the tunnel shaped storage, like a dark shadow, was product of my overactive frightened brain.
It was all dark inside the room due to power cut and I could not see him properly, but I was sure that it was not creation of my mind. I saw him.
They still were relating my claim with what happened on the New Year’s Eve, when my twin sister, Alice died due to a severe head injury.
I know, I was suicidal when I lost Alice.
Thereafter, we all went to spend some time in a hilly area, it was planned by my father. He thought that the change of location could help me overcome emotional stress and aloofness.
It was four of us, my parents and my aunt, my mother’s younger sister. We were sitting around the bonfire, soaking our cold flesh in the warm of scarlet flames. My mind was wandering into the past, thinking of how beautiful the trip could have been with Alice.
After sometime, I heard my father shouting my name. He ran out of breath while he scurried to catch me from falling into the ditch. He held me by forearm and pulled with force. He hugged me tightly and kissed my forehead. “We will get through this, Lily. Don’t give up yet,” he sobbed, trying to tend my invisible wounds.
I made several attempts to join the dots to understand why I was standing at the edge of a cliff. To my surprise, I could not recall the exact moment when I broke the circle, walked past it and made my way towards the edge. As if somebody wiped off the entire moment from my memory disc. All I could remember was me standing at the edge, my hair blown away from my face, cold crisp wind slapping my cheeks and making them drier.
All I could recall was for a moment, I felt like jumping off that cliff and putting an end to the pain which was crushing my soul and making it lifeless.
Me and my father went back to join others.
I furtively glanced at my father and found him already looking in my direction with screwed up eyes. That stirred up guilt at the core of my heart, and I beckoned a smile over my sullen face to assure him of my positive attitude towards recovery.
Thereafter, my parents never took me anywhere near to a mountainous region. I was holed up in my room for a month. I passed my time by reading books and painting some dark stuff. I intentionally chose to stay on the first floor to avoid meeting guests and any relative. They always made requests to meet me, but none of them ever took the trouble to come upstairs, and I, likewise, never took the trouble to go downstairs to see their ugly faces.
One night, I was standing by the side of the window, which overlooked our beautiful garden. I saw a figure sitting on the bench, his feet were dangling and hands were perched on arm rest.
Though, due to darkness, I could not see his face properly, I could feel his gaze lingering on my body. I was horrified. I turned away, jumped on the bed, secured myself inside the quilt and drifted off silently.
Next day, again, around the same time, I saw him. I thought of calling for help but no sound came out of my mouth. That day I slept on the ground near the window, as I was planning to watch him the entire night.
I was taken to my present therapist, Paul, by my parents when I recited the incidents. Unfortunately, it just so happened that they proved me wrong by going through the footage from last one week. There was no one. Therapist called it CREATION of my mind.
After a week of mind-bending revelation, I resumed office duties. Busy city life dragged me along and my life clambered back to normalcy. My house was two hours away, so I decided to rent a flat in close vicinity of my office to save travelling time.
I was putting up in a two BHK flat. I offered the bigger room to be occupied by one of my colleagues, Emily. I have always been generous when it came to share things and spaces, but I can’t afford to share people.
The architecture of the flat was unique, instead of providing a separate room for storage, the landlord had made a tunnel shaped storage in the false ceiling, which was in U shape and connected both the rooms. So, me and my roommate could have a nice little hangout over there just by climbing up from our private spaces, and when required any one of us could have crawled into the other room without using the doors.
On Emily’s demand we watched horror movies at night after office. She enjoyed caramel popcorn along with lemonade. I usually prefer not to eat anything after 8 pm. So, the dinner was enough for me, and I avoided late night snacking.
After a month of my return, I met John. The boy next door. I took liking in his company during Emily’s absence, when she went on a short leave to see her parents. Our relationship became cosy within a week’s time. Talking to John made me happy.
He sometimes spent night with me. We watched movies and talked until midnight.
Then, he got tied up to office work. Due to his busy schedule, we could hardly spend night together. I was all alone in the flat.
It was first rain of the season. I was standing in the balcony, enjoying the rain. I ambled inside to make tea and due to thundering our building suffered power cut. Next day, I was informed by the building caretaker that it may take five days to restore the electricity.
I had to survive on candle light.
On first day of the power cut, at night, when I was lying on my bed and preparing for sleep, I heard a sound coming from the storage, as if someone was scrubbing along the walls. I assumed that it must be the work of rats.
The next day, at night, I heard something move in the storage, pushing the items while it made its way through the tunnel. It was pounding the ceiling with its fists (perhaps), as if a bulky creature was crawling out there. It froze me to death, and I kept lying on the bed like a dead body and reminded myself that it was just a creation of my mind.
I internally reasoned out the problem. I thought to myself, that perhaps it was after effects of watching horror movies.
On third day of power cut, I decided to watch something on laptop. I got it completely charged from the office itself. Unusually, I picked a romantic movie. While I was facing the laptop screen, something briefly flashed on my sideview. I became vigilant and slowly cocked my head to face the ceiling. I saw a black figure lurking, sitting with his knees drawn to the chest and palms resting near his toes.
I wanted to scream and cry for help, but I sat there like a statute with my mouth ajar. That stranger immediately turned backwards and crawled inside the tunnel, perhaps made its way to the other room.
I stayed awake the entire night. Fortunately, the following day was Sunday. I told everything to John and asked him to search the house and the storage. He seemed mentally engaged and asked me to stop watching horror movies. He said that in a building with high security no one can manage to enter from anywhere and I was just making things up to seek attention.
And, then he scheduled my meeting with the therapist.
After attending a pointless session with the therapist, I thought of acting normally. I did not want to disappoint John by engaging into any kind of unending discussion which eventually would have turned into a monologue. Obviously, it would have been John ranting perpetually. Instead, I wanted him to witness things on his own.
Since, it was a holiday, we went out for a dinner in a nearby restaurant. We reserved our seats for roof top space. We enjoyed pizza along with a cold beverage. I ordered Virgin Mojito and John went for Iced Tea. I saw him swig the tea in five gulps. He must have been very thirsty.
After spending a happening evening, I asked him to spend the night in my flat. We cuddled inside the quilt and marinated in peaceful silence.
He then apologized for calling me delusional and I, without retorting, accepted it.
When our eyes were engaged in a passionate gaze, someone pounded his feet on the floor. The sound came from the other room. He picked the candle, skimmed his feet across the floor and made his way out of our room. I was walking behind, holding him by the shoulder.
As soon as, he pushed the door open to enter the other room, electricity got restored and we saw the man running towards the balcony. We strutted to catch him but he jumped from there.
He broke his knees while making attempts to escape. We called the guard to restrain him. Later, he was handed over to the police.
Further investigation revealed that he managed to enter the building during the power cut when the main gate was open and guards were busy checking the MCB. This statement made me cast my mind back to that dark night - the night of power cut. I recalled going to the apartment on the floor below mine for candles, and perhaps, I forgot to latch the door.
After receiving the whippings from the police, he leaked the reason for his illegal stay. The man was homeless and was in need of food and shelter, so he was hiding in the storage. For four days, He would climb out of the tunnel during the day to collect food and climbed back before I came back from the office.
Police said that the man looked deranged and could have committed heinous crime if not got caught on time.
It was raining waterfalls. Me and John returned from the police station and found the driveway flanked by the residents of the building. They were holding umbrellas with their stare fixed on our faces. Each one of them was throwing sympathetic glance and few approached us to get first hand understanding of the incident.
I ignored the crowd and made my way straight to my apartment. I splashed some water on my face, and with wet face, I sprawled across the bed with eyes fixed on the storage.
Something threw me into a dilemma, and I could not decide whether to stay in the apartment or to leave for my home.
John asked me to stay a little longer until the rain ends. But I decided to shift immediately. I drove in rain non-stop. After all, two hours of drive was better than putting up with a horror show.
After all, the man in my garden is better than the one that was lurking in the storage.