“COME HERE NOWWW!”
Rashmi sighed and put her doll away. Downstairs, she found her big sister in the usual spot by the window. Staring slack-jawed into her phone, with the occasional smirk.
“What is it Ramya?”
Ramya looked up from her screen. She nodded her head at the Lunch Box on the kitchen counter.
“No, mom said you had to go!”
Ramya rolled her eyes. And went back to her phone. Her little sister would give in after a brief rebellion.
Rammmya. Please! You know I’m scared of him.”
Tap tap tap. Ramya’s fingers sent 3 texts, one FB status update and 2 likes on Instagram. Done, she looked up, sensing victory.
And right on cue, Rashmi said, “Fine, I’ll go. But I’m telling mom! This is so not fair!”
Ramya sneered. “Yeah, you do that.”
A short while later, with boots on and lunch box in hand, Rashmi called out. “Ok, I am leaving!”
No Response. And then her sister hissed from the kitchen.
Rashmeeeee. Don’t get too close to him. You know what he is.”
Rashmi’s eyes burned with hot tears.
“Stop it Ramya. Don’t say that!”
“They say he
likesss the blood of young girlsss!”
Wiping her face, Rashmi closed the door to the sounds of her sister’s guffaws.
It was a cold day, with a hint of rain. Her thin jacket fluttered in the wind as Rashmi took the narrow alley from her backyard. The road snaked for a while before disappearing into the woods. She thought about the last time she’d made this trip. When she’d seen something scary (did you really, honestly see those teeth?). And then made the stupid mistake of telling Ramya about it.
Anger pulsed inside her as she reached the first trees. She trudged in silence, thinking of a million different ways to make her sister pay. On autopilot, she walked for almost ten minutes, before she realized how dark the day had become. This deep in the woods, not a lot of sunlight filtered through the dense tree cover. Rashmi shivered and pulled her jacket close. Where was the house? Did she pass it already? Was she lost?
A few minutes later, she spotted the old bridge. And the house just beyond. Relief surged inside her for a brief second, only to
be replaced by fear. Her brain begged her not to go any further. Nothing good waited in that house.
But she’d promised. Never to miss a trip. So she kept walking. One foot in front of the other. Over the bridge and past the overgrown front yard. To the old iron door that separated her from whatever was inside.
Rashmi turned around. A gloomy fog pressed against the distant trees, wiping away any sign of the road. Swallowing deeply, she found the key in her pocket and jimmied it into the hole. A little pushing and the door opened.
The smell hit her first. An unpleasant cocktail of old air and moldy sheets. And something deeper. Something she didn’t want to dwell on. Click. Her flashlight illuminated a long dark hallway with rooms to either side. A sudden movement in the corner. She jumped, almost dropping the lunch box. Two bright eyes stared back at her. Just a stupid rat. Crinkling her nose, she walked on. Rats, snakes, bugs. Those didn’t scare her. Not anymore.
A sharp turn at the end of the hallway revealed the basement door. She paused there, ears perked up for any sounds. Nothing. She hoped he was sleeping. Or better yet, dead.
She nudged open the door gently and saw the flight of stairs leading down. (He
likesss the blood of young girlsss).
Her Disney watch glowed cheerfully, a pink halo of absurdity in this godforsaken place. A giggle threatened to escape her throat, and she realized that she was very,
With a prayer on her lips and her heart in her mouth,
9-year-old Rashmi took the first step down. (Don’t get too close to him. You know what he is.)
Into the damp darkness. Where it waited for its meal.