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Aaron this time got up and stood properly with the aid of the wall behind him. His eyes roamed all over the place and at last collided with her twinkling eyes. He recalled she was showing him, a pitiful reaction, like she was begging him with her eyes that he was the only one who could help her. Now, her slumped shoulders are straight. Before, she was looking at him with her downcast eyes; her attention was solely on the wall in the front of her. But now, her attention from the wall had shifted towards him.

Another deep breath he took, he had lost count how many times he had tried to gather his wits together, but every time failed badly. Once again, he closed his eyes, patted his palpitating heart with his right hand. Make a fist by other hand. It went into vain; he didn’t get any sense of security. He repeated in his mind that she was the one who had lost her sanity, he was alright. He could manipulate her and she would surely give onto him. He had upper hand. He just had to not focus on her scary appearance and the eerie atmosphere.

He couldn’t lose his calm. It was difficult for him to be collected but, he had to. For Zola. Zola was once her friend, who had helped him also. He owed her. She deserved to flourish happily was the only thought in his mind. Aaron though left the town five years ago and he deliberately lost all the connections with her, he still could imagine what had happen to her after the death of Earle.

Loneliness poisoned her life.

Zola was in a toxic relationship with Earle. Her life revolved around Earle. Aaron never understood that why Zola would call Earle her savior. To Aaron, Zola was far more twisted then Earle.

Or maybe her thoughts were never twisted. Maybe he was never sensitive towards her. Aaron always looked down on her and her relationship with Earle. That how could she trade her self-respect. But he never directly asked these questions to her. He always thought that she was blinded by her love towards him. He thought that Zola was no less than a scum who could date a man like Earle.

The fact that she could reject him for Earle also angered him. Jealousy and rage blinded his thoughts. He without trying to know her, created a mental image. He judged her.

He realized; Zola was her friend, but he was not hers.

Regret was the most agonizing feeling.

He was regretting everything. If only he talked to Zola, then she wouldn’t be in so pain. He was also responsible for her this state. He also unintentionally forced her to the state of insanity.

Zola’s sobbing suddenly increased more. Her attention was again on the wall, front of her. “Let me out... please,” she started banging her hands on the wall more forcefully, thinking of it as the bars of the cage. Aaron shouted from his position, not dared to go closer, “Zola, stop it. I will help you,” though he himself not knew how was he going to help her out from an imaginary gilded cage.

Zola finally, hurriedly dried her tears. “Really,” her eyes became large, she finally took Aaron’s words seriously, “you will help me?”

Aaron slowly nodded his head and said, “Yes, I will.” Aaron was thinking that he would try his best and would never leave her. He would be the friend that he was not earlier.

Finally tears stopped. A smile erupted on her face. But this smile was not beautiful. Her smile was not the remnant of the sanity. Her smile was ugly. Her smile could not make watchers to pass their own smile. Rather, her smile would make their blood freeze. It was not emitting happiness. Her smile was terrifying.

Blood dripping teeth, stuck meat between them was fully visible to him. He got a strong urge to vomit his guts out. He turned towards the corner of the room, closed his eyes and focused on his breathes and gulped back the bile juices. He knew that if he would try to stop the urge, it would come back more forcefully. But he still tried to control it.

Zola’s agitated voice from behind disrupted his controlled breathing rate, “What are you doing there? Can’t you see, how I am locked inside it. My whole body is in pain due to no movement. I can’t tolerate this anymore.”

Aaron looked back. There was still a lingering bitter taste of the bile juices in his mouth but the urge to vomit was not there. He was now thinking that how would he coerce her that the gilded cage was open, and she could come out from it, without going near her.

An idea came in his mind. He thought that this was the best way. He opened his mouth to speak but stopped when he saw her frantic reaction. She had again started rocking back and forth. She was murmuring something to herself but he wasn’t able to make out the exact words. Aaron tried to read her lips but he couldn’t find out what was she saying. He didn’t have any courage left to ask what she was doing. He decided to silently observe her and if she did something to harm herself then he would stop her.

He saw that how she was blinking very fast and glancing up to the ceiling time to time. He also followed her action and glanced upwards but hesitantly. What if another grotesque sight was there?

Luckily, he was wrong. There was nothing on the ceiling wall. But why Zola was glancing upwards. Abruptly, a giggle pass through her lips. The sound of giggling was very similar to the sound produced by the wind chimes. It would be relaxing to anyone.

But not to, Aaron.

How could her hoarse voice that had an uncanny resemblance to Earle’s voice, suddenly turned into a sweet melodious voice.

Was she mimicking Earle’s voice earlier? Aaron knew that Zola had a talent of singing, so mimicking could not be difficult for her, but to this extent was shocking.

Her giggling stopped and his heart also skipped a beat in fright.

Her eyes on the ceiling were sparkling. Exquisite pale face covered by red, black eyes flashing in pure happiness could become a beautiful art piece if only situation were different.

“Earle, thanks for granting me permission. You were right. I was also thinking the same thing,” then she rubbed her hands and sniff her hairs, “I am stinking. I need to be out of the cage so that I can wash up thoroughly. Then, we will talk and Aaron will also join us,” she winked at Aaron and then said to him, “Are you excited to meet Earle? It has been a long time, right?”

Aaron gaped at that sight. He even lost consciousness for a brief second. And then did a double take. He glared at ceiling and then Zola. After Aaron again stared at her without blinking. Zola was not aware of Aaron’s shocked state. She had turned her head away and was once again smiling towards ceiling.

But Earle was not there. There were only two people inside the room. Zola and him. NO Earle.

Aaron realized one thing - Zola had completely lost sanity. There was no turning back.

Aaron was scared to interrupt her self-talk. He was scared of her reaction. He knew that she wouldn’t agree with him and it would become more difficult for him to take her out of the room. Then, he realized that she wanted to get out of the imaginary cage. Maybe, she wanted to get out of from here but with Earle.

These all things didn’t matter to him if she was ready to come down. He licked his now dried lips and said in a loud voice but wavy, “Zola, let’s go. I got the key.”

Word key got her attention. She replied, “Where is the key? I can’t see it in your hands. Don’t jest Aaron.”

Aaron thought that like an imaginary cage, if he would bring an imaginary key, she would believe him but she didn’t.

“I know where is the key.”

He didn’t like where it was going. Zola was indirectly luring him by telling that she knew about the key. She wanted him to follow her words. He didn’t want to do it but he also didn’t have any other option.

“Where is it then, Zola?”

Zola eagerly replied, “It is in this room, maybe around the corners.”

Aaron said nothing to this. He squatted down and did hand gestures so that it would seem to her that he was searching the key. Zola didn’t stop him. Aaron thought that she had believed him. For some time, he remained in the same position and faked his actions. Zola also turned and faced the wall again.

Zola was saying nothing to him, nor she was talking with herself but still the room was not silent. She was making noises while chewing on the meat flesh. As soon as the meat got fully covered by her sticky saliva, she spat it out and it landed on her calves. Then again, she took another piece and repeated her earlier steps again.

Aaron gagged at the site. Unfortunately, his gagging attracted Zola’s attention again.

Zola was ruined. Deep marks on the abdomen, dark patches on her skin. The greatest irony that once a very shy Zola was not even shielding her dirty naked body from him. Aaron felt that, even animals in the wild were in much better condition than her. Her body had damaged so badly, if he hadn’t seen the breasts, he wouldn’t have believed that she was a woman.

Aaron was not able to control his body reflexes. Zola’s expression was solemn. She was in trance.

Her lips moved, “Don’t worry. You will be okay, like I am. You will soon be accustomed to all these things.” Though she was speaking in front of him but these words were not for Aaron. She was recalling that how in the past whenever she was hurt, Earle used to say the same thing to her.

Aaron in a low tone replied, “I will never be accustomed to these things. I don’t want to be another Zola.”

Zola leaned forward. Her lips curved upwards to form a bloody smile. Maintaining a strong eye contact with Aaron she said, “You will not be another Zola because like me you will not remain alive,” she tilted her neck sideways, smiled perfectly and said, “tik tok tik tok tik tok ......... countdown starts from this instant.”

Aaron jerked back in fright. Is it a death threat? What did he do wrong? Aaron thought.

He had to run. He stood up from his position and jumped towards the door of the room. But unexpected thing happened. Door shut down with a loud bang. The painting that was hung near the wall fall down and shattered completely. His hopes also shattered down.

Aaron was in impression that she was mentally sick. She was not captured by some soul. No paranormal activity was happening inside the room. Sweat dripped down his forehead, he rubbed his arms in fright. How could the door get closed itself? Maybe, it was all doing of Miss Camilla. She was the one who sent him inside. He fumbled inside the room. He could feel pain in head. Zola’s laughing sound reached scratched his ears painfully.

“Aaron, my friend, if I am not wrong you are here to save me. Find the key, let me out and in return I will let you out. What do you think?”

Though she was asking but it was clear from her tone she was not in reality. She just wanted to hear Aaron’s acceptance to this insanity.

Aaron didn’t react to her. He banged the door continuously. He screamed, so that someone could hear him. Zola’s laugh coincided with Aaron’s scream. Their voices together created a horrifying symphony.

His hand became red by continuously beating on the door, his throat also dried and he started a little coughing also. But he didn’t stop. He still continued in hoarse voice screaming the name of Miss Camilla. He kicked the door. He turned the knob many times. The door didn’t budge.

Zola stopped laughing and commanded, “Crawl and find the key. Let me out and I will return the favor.”

Aaron was fearful but when he again heard her saying about key, he then got mad. His breathing rate intensified. His knuckles bruised now, were bleeding also. He still wasn’t able to comprehend the situation and wasn’t able to do anything. He was clenching his jaws so forcefully that it felt his gums would now bleed. He hooked his Forefinger towards her and shouted in panic, “You sick f*ck. There is no cage, no key and no Earle. How can I find a key of the cage that doesn’t exist anywhere else but inside your mind?”

He thought that after his outburst, she would be fearful of him and would give into his demands. He was sure that Miss Camilla had closed the door from outside. He was sure that he would get out of the room with Zola and would interrogate Miss Camilla properly. Zola would have been fine if she had been vigilant enough towards her.

But Zola was not intimidated by it. She in a sorrowful tone said, “I knew it. No one believed me. They never understood. They thought that if I was covered in black cage, how could I see people, how could I make strong eye contact. I myself didn’t know answer of these questions. I am not lying. Things are like just that only.”

She folded her hands, “Believe me Aaron. I don’t want to be in cage anymore. Please find the key and let me out.”

Aaron broke eye contact, he looked down and whispered, “Sit patiently for a while. I will find out the key for you.”

Though he said her to wait patiently. He himself didn’t know that for how long he had to fake the search act. He didn’t know what she would consider as the key.

“Aaron, I believe nothing is around there. You have wasted too much time sitting there. Come and check near the cage or the bed.”

He was reluctant to move forward. Though he pitied her condition but he was still fearful of her. He knew that she was capable of hurting him. He couldn’t afford to get hurt. If he would be fine then only, he could protect her.

When Zola saw that he was not moving, she questioned, “Are you scared of me?”

Aaron without a second thought replied, “No, Zo- Zola I am not. Why would I be? I was just thinking that key is not here?”

She in a low voice replied, “It is here. And I understand why are you not searching around the cage.”

The way she was speaking forcefully in a low voice, he found it uncomfortable. Her gaze made him shiver. One of his legs started shivering. He closed his eyes to avoid her eyes. She had become more terrifying now. On seeing her smiling face, he was in belief that he could manipulate her and the entire situation. Though deep inside he was aware that his thoughts were completely wrong but only because of his, this false resolution he was able to communicate with her.

“Aaaahhhhh....,” she screamed and threw the dead cat near her at him. Aaron’s eyes were tightly closed therefore, he couldn’t dodge and it directly hit him on his face, “You are enjoying this huh? You want me dead huh?” she screamed. She jumped at her place and banged her head on the wall, thinking it bars of the cage, “Let me out Aaron, Aaron.... Let me out,” she said viciously. Blood was dripping from her head. She was injured but still she wasn’t stopping her actions.

Aaron’s body freeze. His eyes were still closed. He could feel the hollow body of the kitty, source of rotten smell was glued to his nose. It evaded his senses. He heard cries of Zola but he couldn’t stop her. He was shocked to core that he couldn’t even lift his hand to clean his face. He thought it would be better if she killed herself. There is no hope that she would be fine.

When she noticed that Aaron was not reacting, she halted her actions. She snarled, “I won’t die easily,” she gestured that she would jump at Aaron and screamed, “I won’t die Earle....”

Aaron’s sluggishly opened his eyes, lifted one of his shaky hands and wiped his face. He whispered, “Zola I am not Earle. Earle died five years ago.”

Zola instantly lost her fiery stance and replied back softly, “Then why every night he is promises to me that he would also drag me with him. I am terrified of him. If I would be free from the cage then only, I could run away from this place and be safe from him,” she begged, “Only you can help me Aaron... please.”

He had realized that no matter what she wouldn’t understand him. He was helpless. He released a tired sigh and slowly crawl towards her. He was still frightened to the core but he didn’t show it to Zola. He hurriedly searched near the bed. Stench of blood and rotten meat was increased tenfold. Breathing became difficult for him. A pointed thing came under his palms. It was a nail; precisely nail of that cat.

Zola who was watching him with full attention started clapping her hands. She laughed loudly and jumped up and down in pure delight, “Thanks Aaron.... You found the key. Now I will be a free bird. Come, hurry open the cage.”

Once again, he was stumped. His heart pound against the ribcage. His heart was bleeding for the kitty. Her broken nail was the key. By this nail, Zola would be out of the cage.

He dropped the nail, “Uhh... Zola how could you open the cage by a nail?” He knew that he shouldn’t ask this question. She was not in a right mental state to understand anything. But he couldn’t stop himself to ask this. When he saw her frosty eyes, he wished he shouldn’t have asked.

Zola leaped and snatched that nail from his hand. “I will be out now. Thanks.”

When he saw that she was not reacting against him, “Let me open the cage. You can’t open it from, inside right?” He looked nervously at her.

She grinned, “No, I can do it myself.” When she noticed that he was not moving rather he was staring at her blatantly, she furrowed her brows and state each word slowly and clearly, “Get out.” He wasn’t able to catch her temperament. She would be begging and in next second she would be threatening him.

He stood up, “Alright Zola, I will be waiting here. We will go downstairs together. You don’t have to be afraid of anything,” he watched her, waiting for her reply. She only smirked. She took wobbly steps towards him. His gut told him that she was going to something wrong. He didn’t have any energy left within him to fight with Zola’s demons. His body was already very tired from shock and fear. Darkness clouded his vision and he fall down with a thud sound in front of Zola.


Someone was hammering his head. He experienced that much pain in his head. He leisurely opened his eyes, it was hazy. He closed his eyes again and clutched his head tightly.

‘Mom, Aaron is up now.’ He heard Luke calling for Miss Camilla.

Aaron exhaled out loudly and remain passive. Luke understood, this action meant that he wanted to be left alone. So, he went outside the room silently. It was the dinner time now. Because of the very thin walls he was able to listen the conversation between Miss Camilla and her son or maybe they were talking loudly near the door. Whatever was the reason, he didn’t care about it. He just wanted to leave from here and also take Zola with her. He also decided that before calling the cops on this family, he would give a chance to Luke, to explain himself.

“Mom, will you shut up. What rubbish are you spouting? Aaron has a mild fever and you want me to throw him out of the house?” Luke lowered his voice so that Aaron couldn’t hear them, “if you had problem with Aaron staying here, then why did you grant me permission earlier, on Aaron staying here?”

Miss Camilla hollered so that Aaron could himself left the house, “This is my house and I don’t want any sickly person here,” she made a weird expression and shouted more loudly, “I don’t want to be a nanny of a full-grown man. Throw him out of my property. Only god knows what types of germs he had bring here with himself.”

Luke understood what his mom was trying to do. He held Camilla’s hand and dragged her from outside of the room, “Stop making me embarrassed mom! What is your problem with Aaron? He fainted maybe due to fatigue and you are ready to throw him out. Stop being so insensitive.”

“I don’t care,” Aaron who had come out, cut off Camilla’s word, “Why would you care Miss Camilla huh? Now your mask is removed and truth is out, I am sure you would like me to not only out of the house but out of the world also, right?”

Camilla’s face turned red. As she was going to lash out, Luke came forward, he didn’t like that Aaron was blatantly disrespecting his mother, “Truth? For what you are accusing her?”

“For capturing a weak girl, giving her treatment worse than an animal that made her lose her sanity,” Aaron glared at her.

Camilla balled her fists and lunged towards Aaron, not caring about the presence of her son, “Scram! Scram! How dare you to accuse me of something which I never did?!”

Aaron mockingly smiled. Luke, shielded his mom. He was very dissatisfied that his good friend was accusing her mother, “I think you have lost your senses; you understand what you are talking? Though I not live here but I know that no one is kept here.”

Aaron knew that Luke would not believe him, until he saw the whole predicament with his own eyes, “Okay, follow me upstairs. We will see how innocent your dear mom is?”

Camilla stopped her son. She wailed, “Don’t believe him. He is lying. You know me son. Why would I do such despicable crime? I am not a criminal.”

Luke snatched his hand from her mother’s tight grip. He caressed her face and wiped angry tears from her face, “I believe you and I am following him upstairs to prove your innocence. You stay here. Do not worry.”

Luke then without waiting for a moment asked, “Where my mother has kept a person?”

Aaron without replying turned in the direction of Zola’s room and Luke followed him. His breathing was finally a little steady and there was a hope in his heart that Zola would be free from all the torture. He was not aware that Zola would not be free from the agony but, he would also become the part of that agony.

Luke was happy that his friend was back. He thought that they would enjoy together. He never expected that Aaron would ruin his mood by blaming his mom. He was not able to understand what happened between his mom and Aaron that latter is blatantly spatting lies regarding his mom and tarnishing her image.

“See,” Aaron stopped outside of the room. Luke opened the room and stepped inside. Only he had entered the room. Luke roamed his eyes all over the room and disdainfully asked, “What is there to see?” All the anger that earlier he had tried to control, rushed back.

Aaron didn’t expect such lame reaction from him. He thought that Luke would be equally horrified like him. He hesitantly stepped inside and got shocked. The room was clear. It was the same ordinary room. Nothing was out of the place. NO eerie atmosphere. He was stupefied. He hurriedly came out and checked that whether they had entered the wrong room? They entered the right room.

He then checked all the other rooms. He even went downstairs and check their also. He left no place of the house. Luke didn’t stop Aaron not even commented anything. His arms were crossed and he was watching all the actions of the Aaron. Even Camilla who was earlier accused, was sitting quietly on the sofa. She also didn’t stop him.

“Done,” Luke walked down, “If any place is left, you can go and check.”

“How is it possible?” Aaron thought, “Luke, trust me, I saw Zola upstairs,” and he repeated everything which he had encountered. He then glared at Camilla, “She cleared everything and made the room normal.”

Camilla got up and in a very calm tone asked, “When did you reach here?”

Aaron in anger didn’t reply back. Luke then said answer the question.

"Six pm.”

“According to you, for how long you stayed inside the room with Zola?” she again queried.

"Approximately forty-five minutes.” Aaron was not understanding her game.

“My neighbor whom I accompanied for shopping knew that we reached the home around seven pm. I found your unconscious body at the doorstep and around after ten minutes, Luke also reached home. So, you mean to say that in just ten minutes, I a petite middle aged woman carried a man of 200lbs downstairs, tended him and in the mean time also wiped out all the evidences,” Aaron was going to interrupt but she raised her hand and continued, “now, don’t say that I have hidden someone who helped me in this task, because you searched everywhere and you know nobody is in the house except us.”

Aaron believed Miss Camilla’s explanation but he was also not lying.

Aaron thought- Is he wrong? All that he saw or experienced was just a dream? In reality he never met Zola and because of his hatred towards Earle and her, he fragmented a story?

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