Maya fluffed her favorite pillow. She smiled at her cozy bed, grateful for the luxurious sheets and the tiny night light attached to the headboard. At the end of a lonely, long day, these little things made her smile.
Her bedroom door creaked softly. Warily, Maya tiptoed to the door and pulled it open. A cautious glance outside revealed nothing. Not even a naughty breeze.
And then the faintest of thuds, from the top of the stairs.
“Hello? Who is there?”
Out of the shadows, came a woman. Skeletal and gaunt, she limped forward, her mouth a slash of red.
“Is that…. Is that really you?”
Maya stared, petrified. She hadn’t seen her “mother” since the day of the funeral. The white casket, the cloying smell of lilies, the stunned weariness of family and friends.
Her father’s voice, boomed from downstairs. “Who is it, dear? Did you hear something?”
Her mother came, shuffling slowly at first, then faster. Her outstretched hand, her hungry fingers. Close. Close. Closer.
She was about to touch Maya, when the little girl shook her head mournfully, and stretched her jaw wide. A serpentine tongue lashed out, and the woman shrieked. Maya’s wispy hair, still limp with decay, hung across her face. Covering the old scars, the decomposing bruises. “Mama”, she croaked, in a gravelly voice. Specks of graveyard dirt flew from her lips as she clicked her teeth.
“Mama, did you miss me?”
The woman scurried backwards and fell to the floor; her anguished cries causing her husband to come bounding up the stairs. The little girl cocked her head and stared, her sunken eyeballs veiled behind a film of death.
“Bindu, what’s going on? Are you
Maya looked up, grinning with her too large teeth. “Papa!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands with glee. “Do you want to watch? Watch me eat Mumma?”
The man sunk to his knees, his mouth a perfect O of shock. He was a bully and, (therefore), a coward. He covered his ears and rocked back and forth. The sounds of his wife being torn, reached him and seeped into his brain. He screamed- willing his legs to move, begging his heart to stop. And the little girl kept eating.
Suddenly, silence. He opened his eyes and saw his dead daughter’s bedroom – clean and devoid of anyone (those teeth!). The pillow fluffed and plump. The bed- a smooth expanse of satin. He stood up and blinked, disoriented. “Bindu”, he called out in a hoarse whisper. “Bindu, where are you?”
No response. A second later, Bindu’s voice floated up from downstairs. Relieved and red with embarrassment, the man smoothed his shirt and took a deep breath. “Empty room, Rajan! No ghosts here!”, he muttered. With half a resolve to stop drinking, he marched down the stairs.
“Bindu, where are you? You will not believe this! Bindu!”
As he walked to the living room, thinking about his next bottle, he didn’t see the dark shadow crouching by the kitchen. He failed to notice the sudden whiff of lilies – stale and putrid. In fact, he didn’t hear the rattling click of too-large teeth.
“Bindu, want some wine?” he asked
And “Bindu” croaked from right behind him.
|Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash|