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Suspense Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

I ring the doorbell of Maddy’s flat. Madhav Shinde, or Maddy, has been my neighbor ever since I and Isha, my girlfriend, moved here to Sunrise Apartments a month ago. He works as a software consultant and lives alone. Whenever home, he is particularly nosy about things going on at his adjacent flat.

I wipe off the beads of sweat on my forehead.

“Hi Roy,” Maddy greets as he opens the door. He seems a bit taller than usual. He is five foot three on a tall day.

“Hi. Can I use your phone? I can't find mine.”

“Sure,” he holds his trouser with one hand and fiddles in his pocket with the other. I almost snatch the phone when he hands it to me. I dial my number.

“It is probably there in the mess. You know it won’t hurt to clean it at least once in a couple of days,” he sneers. I grimaced without taking my eyes off the screen. It says switched off.

“Battery must be drained. When did you see it last?”

“I can’t remember,” I hand him the phone.

“You want to call Isha?”

“You have her number?”

Isha is home whenever she is off her flight attendant duties. She has been here a total of six days -- non-continuous.

“She gave me yesterday to check on you. If ever needed.”

I notice his housemaid mopping the floor, eavesdropping on our conversation.

“That’s alright. I’ll look again,” I thank Maddy and return to my flat.


How do we know if something is real? How can we ever be sure without choosing to believe it? It is a gamble you have to take or you’ll never know. Win or lose, you get to live in the reality. But now the question is, would you like to be proven wrong and be tormented for the rest of your life or rather have years of fantasies until you make up your mind that it was real and be afflicted this way too?

I just knew it in my guts; the love I see isn’t real. The first time when Isha had looked into my eyes, standing a few inches from where I could feel her warm breath on my face, I could see a beguiling resemblance to what I felt- like a reflection of my love. My gut told me it’s working the same way we look better in the mirror. But I tell myself- this is real. Yesterday, I didn’t see anything. It was like looking at a monotone wall.

I remember showing her the photo Sam had sent me. We had a row over it. I can’t recall where I kept the phone after that.

Sam was my business partner who has now trapped me in a fraudulent invoicing scam. Both posed for the photo with arms around each other’s waists. It may not mean anything, but I know why Sam has sent it. He knew I had a suspicion. I have seen her looking at him at the party. It was pretty near the knuckle and more titillating than the way she looks at me.

I brushed it off thinking that I am going out of my head. I was jealous of Sam’s charming persona, but I was more envious of Isha’s reverence towards his chivalrous acts. When I confronted her yesterday about this, she had stormed off. That is the last thing I remember from the night.

I sit back on the sofa and close my eyes for a moment, before going on another round of searching the phone. My phone has some pieces of evidence which I can use in the legal case to prove my innocence.

“Are you going to just sit here while everything goes haywire?”

I open my eyes to see Maddy standing in front of me. He has closed the door behind him after getting in.

“What are you doing here, Maddy?”

“I know exactly where your phone is. Call Isha,” he commands, handing me his phone with Isha’s number on the dial. I tap on call. It says switched off.

“She must be on duty or something … I don’t know,” I give him his phone back.

“You are thinking that she’s still angry about yesterday and you overstepped with the affair thing? You fool. Who keeps his only proof of innocence in the phone?” he blusters.

“Wait. How do you know about all these?”

“I know about a lot of things going on in this house; even some things which you don’t,” he says with a shrewd smile.

“Like what?”

“You won’t be able to handle it, Roy. Anyway, how can you be so dumb to figure out that Isha has your phone?” he says. “It’s crystal clear but you’re unable to see the obvious. Though your intuition is right; she’s having an affair with your business partner. She will stiff you out for him.”

I’m startled by his grasp on the insights. “How can you be so sure about her affair?”

He sighs and paces around the room. 

“Let’s face it. Last week Isha was here alone while you were out somewhere? Guess what. She wasn’t alone. So let’s not dwell upon how I know things and sort the mess you are in,” he snaps.

“You don’t know if she has taken it,” I shout. “I know her. She won’t rat me out.”

He switches on the TV and scrolls to a local news channel.

‘It looks like Roy Sharma is the mastermind behind a scam of twenty crores involving the company ‘Fast Trade’. His partner and co-founder of the company, Samar Shroff has reportedly filed for his innocence and is willing to expose Roy. If proven guilty, Roy Sharma may face years of imprisonment, which is likely because the case against him seems pretty strong. Moving on to the next …’

I am baffled by the blunt accusation by the reporter. The case was not even in the newspapers until yesterday and now it has hit the headlines.

“Why don’t you remember anything from yesterday’s night? You usually wake up at seven o’clock. Today you woke up at eleven. She gave you the slip and took your phone. She is gone,’ he yells.

I am tongue-tied. He continues, “Look, I’m not your friend but I’m the only one who’s willing to help you right now. She is a rat and she has ratted on you for Sam. You should call your lawyer now and see if he can do something about the phone.”

“I don’t remember his number. I have to visit his office,” I rise and walk up to the jug of water on the dining table. As I was pouring water into a glass, I saw her flight pass on the table.

 “That’s her flight pass. Great! She must have forgotten them in a hurry. She has to return for them. This is our best shot at getting your proofs back,’ Maddy says, standing right behind me.

“How’s that?”

“We will see. Meanwhile, you go freshen up.”


I come out of the shower with muddled thoughts. I should wait for Isha; only she can bring an end to my turmoil. I dress up in a suit to visit my lawyer. 

One more thing is creeping me out. Maddy knows way too much about all this. He has always been inquisitive in my matters but he is timid. Today he is intimidating.

I have only told Isha about the evidence in my phone and yesterday inculpated her of infidelity. He could have overheard our dispute. But something feels weird about him.

I go to the hall and see Maddy closing the door of the smaller bedroom. We use it as a storeroom to keep carton boxes and stuff which are untouched since we shifted to this flat.

“What are you doing?”

Maddy scurries upto me.

“I have trapped Isha in that room.”

“What?” I make a rush towards the room but Maddy stops me by putting his hand on my shoulder.

“She came in and when I told her that you were in the shower, she charged for the flight passes and made a run for it. But I hit her on the head with that silver flower vase and knocked her out. Don’t worry. There was no bleeding, probably only a little bump on the back of her head. I was afraid she might get up so I dragged her into the room and locked it,” he explains proudly.

“You hit her with the flower vase? You couldn’t just block her way and close the door?”

“She was quick. Now get over it. Don’t open the door yet. Let’s discuss our next step,” Maddy almost shoves me onto the sofa. 

I hear a police siren wail outside the window. Maddy goes to check it.

“It’s a fire truck.”

“It sounds like a police siren,” I remark.

The doorbell rings. Maddy and I look at each other. I get up to answer it.

“I.. I’ll just stand back here. You go open the door,” his voice quavers as he hurries into the bedroom.

I answer the door.

“Isha?” 

How can she be out if Maddy has trapped her in the storeroom?

“How are you now, honey?” she asks, coming inside. “You are all dressed up. Are you going out?”

“Where’s my phone?” I question, regaining my equanimity.

“You don’t remember? You banged it on the floor last night.”

“Why would I do that?”

“You were squabbling yesterday. You really don’t remember anything?” she comes closer.

“It has the evidence. Where is it now?”

“The phone broke. You took out the memory card. You didn’t tell me where you keep it.”

I try to remember if this was what happened.

“Roy. The reports have come in and you ...”

“Why did I wake up late today? You slipped something into me?”

“I don’t know. I went to my friend’s house after you threw me out last night.”

“You left. You can shamelessly be having your romantic escapades but your ears pain when someone calls it an affair.”

“Please, Roy. Not again. I told you I haven’t even talked to him since that party.”

“Then why did Sam send me that photo? What does it mean?”

“Maybe he knows. He’s trying to mess with your mind. We just greeted each other at the party and he asked for a photo. That’s it,” she threw her hands in the air.

“He knows what, huh? Maddy has seen him coming to this house when you were alone,” I yell.

“Maddy said that to you?”

“You don’t believe me? He’s in the bedroom. Go ask him.”

“What is he doing there?” she proceeds to the bedroom.

I smack the silver flower vase on the teapoy. It brings my attention to the storeroom. Why did Maddy lie about it? I irresolutely walk towards it and turn the doorknob. A woman lay on the floor face down with a pool of blood around her head. I feel light-headed by the sight of blood. By her clothes and stature, I realize that she is Maddy's housemaid. I gasp for breath and close the door immediately.

It strikes me. They are all in this together. That’s how Maddy knew everything about me. The police siren hoots and Isha also appears? That’s one perfect moment to be present here when Maddy puts the blame on me. A murder accusation and I would be gone forever. I wonder how they lured Maddy into this stratagem.

In no time, Maddy and Isha will come out of the bedroom together. Police officers will also ring the doorbell and to everyone’s surprise, there is a dead woman in the storeroom.

RUN

I dash outside and close the door of the flat. Let them be trapped there until the police bangs open the door. I’m fleeing from a crime scene that might be manifested as guilty, but I have to get to my lawyer first without complicating the state of play any further.

WATCH OUT

I run down the stairs. I walk briskly when I reach the reception area to not raise any suspicion. I see Maddy walking in from the entrance with a bag of groceries.

So he managed to escape from the room and Isha was the one who was supposed to catch me red-handed.

“You bastard! What’s in it for you?” I grab him by the collar.

“What did I do?”

“I had nothing with you and you kill your maid just to screw me?”

“What? I didn’t kill anybody,” he squeals.

HE IS LYING

“You took her to my storeroom and killed her when I was in the shower. Isn’t that why you were not letting me open the door?”

“I was out to the market. You see these...” he raises his hands to show the bags.

I look sideways and the security guard was looking at us with a gaping mouth.

HE WILL TELL EVERYONE

“Roy. Are you experiencing delusions? There’s an ambulance outside waiting for you. You don’t look so well. Is everything okay?”

“Ambulance?”

THEY WILL KILL YOU

“Yes. Isha has brought it along. They told me you have Schizophrenia.”

SHE IS A CHEATER.

I get into the elevator and press the button for the fifth floor. The floor numbers scrolling down seem blurry. I try to focus on them, ignoring the voice in my head.

The elevator door opens and I rush to my flat. I put in the key and open the door. 


I freeze. A giant rat was in the hall; its head as tall as me, its back touching the roof. I look into its eyes. They look moist. It whimpers and cowers. I stand still, unable to move an inch.


January 07, 2022 14:13

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