THE OLD MAN

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CHAPTER 5: THE DREADED DOLL, PART 1

Pritam is lost in shock. Jagadeep shakes him back to his senses. Pritam heaves and asks in a shivering voice: What happened to Mohan after that?

Jagadeep: His both legs had to be amputated.

Pritam goes to a corner saying: I don’t want to listen to you anymore.

Jagadeep (teasing): There was one shitty person, or perhaps a shirker person in our group. Hey guys, have you seen him?

Pritam doesn’t give a damn, and is lost in his own thoughts.

Amol (sarcastically): Prem, do you think that the lady was a thief too?

Prem (sneering): Mohan was unlucky and brave enough that he was not knocked unconscious or else he would have just lost his wallet or valuables, but not his legs…

Pradeep (shutting up Prem and trying to lift Pritam’s spirit): Cut the crap buddy! Amol, can you please make a large peg for Pritam?

Pritam (spontaneously and loudly): EXTRA LARGE.

Pritam’s spontaneous response gives rise to some giggles, which lightens up the environment.

Pritam (daftly smiles): Common man, give me my peg.

He gulps the whole drink in one go: Aaah, one more, EXTRA LARGE

Parag: Bro…stay in your limits, you have to drive back.

Prem: There is no need to worry, let him have his fill…

Pradeep: Why? Are you gonna drive?

Prem (animatedly): No dear, I will tell a spine chilling story which will melt away his drunkenness.

Parag (cuts in): So, you mean to say that the ghost in your story is real and the rest are fakes and thieves?

Another round of chuckles fills the ambience.

An unknown entity with predacious eyes, is watching them from a distance.

Amol: Pritam? Are you ready to hear the next?

Pritam ponders for a moment, smirks: Yeah… spit it out…

Prem starts to narrate his story

This happened in my village

I was going to my village, my brother was well settled... had huge farms and real cash crops. He had just moved into his newly constructed luxurious bungalow after demolishing our old one. I had kept my visit a surprise but little did I know that a bigger surprise was waiting for me...

It’s dusk, when Prem reaches his destination. He removes his helmet and hangs it on the handle, parking the bike on side stand he gets off.

The land on which the bungalow is built is an elevated bulged land, giving it the advantage to evade water logging during monsoons. It’s a natural grass land boasting with loads of hibiscus, jasmine and ixora flowers, giving it a sublime elated dimension. In front of the main entrance, circumambulated by the driveway, is a serene statue of Lord Krishna, looking over a mischievous little Tulsi plant, who is hatching an escape plan from the big encircling vase in which it is stuck in. The driveway is made up of broken tiles and ends in a large parking porch. The bungalow is a double storied luxury and right above the main entrance area, on the first floor, there is a grand balcony equipped with a terrace garden. There are creepers lunging out from the entrance area on to the balcony’s terrace garden, shading and cooling the outdoor sitting area. The house is surrounded with green lawn up to the boundary walls and the boundary walls are beautifully concealed under vines. It’s a lush exotically green experience.

Prem (to himself): Phew, at last, here I am. (Stretching himself and scanning the bungalow) super sexy from the outside… hope it is so from the inside too.

He rings the calling bell and his six year old niece Urmi opens the door. She is very much happy, surprised and excited to see her paternal uncle.

She pounces towards Prem for an embrace saying: Uncle? You!!

Prem (catching and hugging her): Ohh! Urmi... hahahaha (and kisses her). Where are the others?

Prem looks around the house as Urmi pranks him by pulling his cheeks and playing with his face.

The East faced bungalow welcomes you with a big living room adorned with perfectly manicured couches and an equally magnificent slender coffee table to serve the guests. A beautifully designed shoe rack, additionally serving the purpose of a book shelf runs along the main east facing barrier wall. A decent chandelier completes the living room. To the left, just beside the entrance door you have a TV room. There are two consecutive bedrooms next to the TV room, the adjacent one with an east entrance door and the other with a south entrance door. An oval entrance to the right, from the North West end of the living room gives way to the dining area adorned with a round teak wood dining table and six chairs to go with it; the dining area is further extended with a sleek modular kitchen. The kitchen and the dining area are partitioned by an ergonomically designed convenient kitchen hole made with mahogany wood. A back door from the kitchen takes you to a robustly constructed well, the washing area and an exclusive nursery with green chilies, curry leaves and parsley. To the left of the dining area there is a Puja room. The living area ends with a store room and a washroom. A stairway with svelte steel railings, prior to the store room door, leads you to the upper floor which begins with the play room. Besides the playroom, the upper floor consists of three more bedrooms, one to the right of the playroom and the remaining two to the left. The graceful railings from the stairway, continues its run forming safety barricades along the potential pits and falls, and designing spacious corridors leading to the comfort of luxurious bedrooms. All the bedrooms are equipped with king size beds, dressing tables with tall mirrors, shelves for general use and attached washrooms. A ladder connects the play room to the main terrace area. From the railings on the first floor, the living room can be seen in all its majesty.

Prem (cheerful): It’s indeed superb, from inside too!!

Prem’s sister-in-law (Nutan) comes out of the kitchen to check out who is at the door and is pleasantly surprised to see Prem.

Nutan: Prem? You didn’t even tell us you were coming, wanted to surprise us?

Prem (frowning): Yeah, but I think I have been had. (Nutan lets out a chuckle), Where are the others?

Nutan (with a smirk): Mom and dad have gone to attend a marriage...

Prem (keeping Urmi down): Whose marriage?

Nutan: You know aunt Krishna right?

Prem (placing his travel bag nearby): Yup,

Nutan: Her niece’s marriage… they will be back, only by tomorrow evening…

Prem (sitting on the sofa and removing his shoes): And where’s Big Bro! (Urmi comes hopping and sits beside Prem.)

Nutan: He has gone to the town… will be back anytime.

Urmi (interrupting): Uncle? Let’s play a game. (And she starts to pull him.)

Prem (grabbing Urmi on to his lap): No dear... not now… I am tired to the core… have been driving all the day…

Urmi (pleading): Please uncle... just for a couple of minutes? (Pointing to a room on the first floor) that’s my play room … just above the store room.

Prem looks at the room on the first floor, which is just after the stairs and looks at Nutan, gesturing her to help him out.

Nutan: Urmi? I think it’s time for your favorite cartoon show, right?

Urmi (childlike): Yeah... Oh my god… I had forgot about it completely, (getting off from Prem’s lap), Uncle, we will play afterwards, first let me watch “Barbareek and his unique powers”

Prem (teasingly): Yeah sure, or else, your Barbareek might fly off with his unique powers…

Urmi (childishly punching Prem): Don’t tease me, and runs off to watch her show.

With a loving smile Prem gazes at Urmi running away, when suddenly he senses something looking at him from the play room. He flicks his head in that direction, but finds nothing. Noticing the sudden jerk in Prem’s movement, Nutan too, looks towards that direction.

Nutan: What are you looking at?

Prem (rubbishing his doubts): Nothing (he stands up), I will be back after a bath.

Prem grabs his bag and asks: Where’s the bathroom?

Nutan (with a proud smile): All the bedrooms have attached bathrooms … You can choose the one you like...

Prem chooses the nearest bedroom, the one adjacent to the TV room.

While bathing, he again senses a strange presence around himself. He rubbishes these hallucinations to be the side effects of the long trip he just had.

Prem (thinks): Might be the repercussions of the day long drive.

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