THE OLD MAN

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CHAPTER 6: THE DREADED DOLL, PART2

After the refreshing bath as Prem puts on his clothes, he hears the doorbell. He hurriedly dresses up and goes towards the door, to see Nutan receiving Abhijeet. Unexpectedly seeing Prem, Abhijeet is happy and surprised.

Abhijeet (with a big smile): Prem! When did you arrive?

Abhijeet has bought many things from the market; he keeps them on the floor as Prem comes in for a hug. They hug each other in a tight brotherly embrace.

Abhijeet (holding Prem by the shoulders): How are things with you?

Prem (smiling): Everything’s absolutely fine.

Abhijeet removes his sneakers, keeps them on the rack and makes himself comfortable on the couch.

Abhijeet: Nutan…everything that you ordered is kept over there! (Pointing in the direction where he has placed those goods) Come Prem … Sit here with me…

Nutan: Not now Prem! (Then to Abhijeet) You go and freshen up… I will give dinner to Urmi in the meantime...

Abhijeet (requests): At least let me have a short chat with my brother…

Nutan (a bit sternly): He is not going anywhere… we can all chat while having dinner…

Helpless to control his emotions, Prem lets out a spontaneous giggle.

Abhijeet (sulking and frowning): What’s so funny? Get married first and you too will know!

Prem (still laughing): I will catch something on TV till you freshen up…

Abhijeet (gesturing helplessness): I have to obey the boss here... (He gets up and starts walking towards their bedroom on the first floor.)

Nutan (smiles): Will make a strong tea for you... (Abhijeet smiles and rises his hand in a thumbs up.)

Then she calls out: Urmi, come here and have your dinner.

When Prem enters the TV room, Urmi is still stuck on some cartoon show.

Prem: Urmi…go Kiddo…go fast and have your dinner…

Urmi (reminding): You are going to play with me after dinner, aren’t you?

Prem (oozing out of the situation): Yeah… Sure…

Urmi happily hops and runs away to have her dinner. Prem smiles, grabs the remote and rests on the couch. He shuffles between many programs before settling on a news channel. He is completely engrossed in the news, when a shadow whizzes past, stunning him. He looks around and finds nothing.

Prem (again rubbishing it off): Don’t know what’s happening...

After few moments he perceives someone whispering his name in a long spooky way: Preeemmm…

Jittering, Prem gets up and starts looking here and there. By then Abhijeet comes in and smells Prem’s uneasiness.

Abhijeet (in a grave tone): What happened, Prem?

Prem (jolts out): aaa… Nothing…

Abhijeet: Why are you looking around, what happened?

Prem (still looking here and there): A weird feeling… Felt like someone is watching me or calling me …

Abhijeet (smiles): Might be coz of your fatigue… Have a good long sleep after dinner… It should be alright by morning.

Prem (rubbing his forehead and eyes): Yeah I, too, think so … Let’s have the dinner.

On entering the dining area, Abhijeet is surprised to see Urmi asleep.

Abhijeet (surprised and amused): She is already asleep?

Prem (delighted): I have been saved!

Nutan: I have kept your tea at the table… I will be back after putting Urmi onto the bed.

With a smile Abhijeet proceeds to have his tea.

An unknown apparition peeps from the backdoor in the kitchen. Through a convenient kitchen hole, she observes Prem setting the dining table. And she giggles to herself.

By the time Nutan comes back, Prem has finished setting up the dining table.

Prem (sitting on a dining chair): The table is all set… let’s start...

Nutan smiles, looks at the table and goes into the kitchen to fetch a mug of water.

Nutan: This was missing. She places it on the dining table and settles beside Abhijeet.

Abhijeet: So how’s your job and all...

Prem: It’s going good… awaiting a promotion soon...

Nutan: Promotion means pay rise too, right?

Prem: Hope so… This time I have heard a rumor that they are going to raise it more than my expectations.

Nutan (looking at Abhijeet with a notorious smile): Will have to tell mom and dad to look for a suitable girl for him as soon as they arrive tomorrow…

Prem (acting shy): Ahem, I am not yet ready...

Abhijeet: Why, what’s the problem…

Prem: Let me enjoy the free air, a bit more … after that will think about it…

Nutan: Why, is marriage going to choke you up?

Prem: Nah, but there would be restrictions and instructions … (He playfully looks at Abhijeet.)

Abhijeet (ridiculously): What restrictions and why are you sneering at me?

Prem: The same restrictions you had to handle a few minutes back?

Nutan (scornfully): That is our love… you will come to know, once you get married.

Prem abruptly replies: Gosh… if that’s love … I would prefer to stay single. (This culminates into a session of laughter.)

The dinner proceeds on with more blabbering, jokes and laughter.

But again some unknown presence has set its sight on Prem…

After the dinner

Prem: Am going to sleep bro!!

Abhijeet: Where are you gonna sleep...?

Prem (pointing towards the bedroom he earlier used): There…

Abhijeet (smiling and walking towards the staircase): Oh, I see, you have already conquered your territory!

Prem (smiles; and then yawning): Yup…good night, Bro!

Nutan and Abhijeet (on the staircase): Good night.

They all retire to their respective bedrooms.

Prem latches the bedroom door, turns on the AC as well as fan, and collapses on to the inviting bed with a sigh: Aaaahhh.

He turns on to his back and looks towards the ceiling. The cool breeze soothes his nerves and with a smile he closes his eyes. As sleep lingers on the horizon of his consciousness, he senses a disfigured face staring at him. He, at once, opens his eyes and to his horror a Barbie doll falls on him with a loud shriek. Shocked, he jumps out of his bed with an equally loud cry. He looks everywhere with frightened gazes, but there is no sign of the Barbie doll. Prem is so frightened that even with the AC and the fan on, he is heavily perspiring. Suspiciously and very carefully he bends to look under the cot, but is jolted out of his breath by a loud knock on the door.

Prem (shaken): AAAYYY!

Abhijeet (again knocking the door, shouts): Prem, what happened?

Prem (frightened): WH…WHh…Who’s that?

Abhijeet (concerned): It’s me, Prem… Open the door… (And Abhijeet again knocks at the door.)

Prem opens the door in a very suspicious manner.

Abhijeet (concerned and confused, examining Prem’s body language): Why are you so frightened?? What happened to you??

Prem (taking a deep breath and composing himself, rubbishes off the incident): Nothing… the same weird hallucinations … (and then he looks around) but what’s the matter with you… why are you up so late?

Abhijeet: My father-in-law has had an asthma attack, so I will have to leave…

Prem (cuts in): I will accompany you…

Abhijeet (a bit irritated): No need… Nothing serious… Just for the satisfaction of Nutan’s mother, he has been admitted.

Prem (with a small smile): Oh….

Abhijeet: We will be back in a few hours…

(By then Nutan comes down carrying a sleeping Urmi and hands her over to Prem.)

Nutan: Let her sleep beside you…

Prem (taking Urmi): Ok… (And he goes inside the bedroom.)

From the play room, the Barbie doll stealthily looks at Prem and giggles to herself.

After laying Urmi down, Prem comes to see off Abhijeet and Nutan.

Prem: By what time will you both be back?

Abhijeet: In an hour or two

Prem: Ok, bro ... Bye

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