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She froze right then with her left leg in the air on its way to the second step of the stairway. Yet another knock came and a rivulet of sweat, as if on cue, slid down her back.

She turned back, getting closer to the door.

She knew that she should run away, go to her bed and just shut off her mind. But the idiosyncrasy ingrained in the depths of her brain didn’t let her. Just as the cold metal of the door handle came in contact with her palm, she withdrew it as though it was on fire. The words from the note echoed in her head.

“Don’t come out. These will be your last words.”

She backed away from it and then heard another knock, louder this time. Biting her quivering lower lip, she stuttered out,

“Wh- Who is t-there?”

Silence. Absolute deafening silence.

“Have you had your lunch?” A muffled male voice came from the other side.

The question surprised her. She didn’t say anything for a minute, a result of her being afraid coupled with confusion.

“Did you have your lunch?”

She jumped where she was standing on the marble floor. The words reeked of anger this time. Without thinking, she answered,

“Y- Yes I... I- I did.”

Silence again.

An inhumane groan wrenched the silence apart and a loud cry pierced her ears. Her hands closed her mouth in an instant, prohibiting her from squeaking. The cries grew louder, multiplying as they intensified. It sounded to her like... three men were wailing outside her door. A million questions acquired a form in her mind, faster than the blood gushing through her veins, while she stood there as still as a stone.

The men stopped abruptly, as if they were never crying. Malefic silence complimented the darkness once again, lying through its teeth about the shrill cries.

A minute passed. There wasn’t a sound produced; neither on the outside of the door nor at the inside. Shruti’s racing heart backed down to its normal pace, relieved that it no longer had to fight for its survival.

But it was proven wrong.

A faint slurping sound came from the other side, followed by a satisfied groan. And then there were loud chewing sounds akin to someone eating something. The exasperating chomping and licking and churning sounds caused her feet to move towards the window.

The panorama gnawed at her stomach, she flinched and a low gasp left her mouth. Three men, looking as though they were beggars, with ragged, dirty clothes hanging on slender bodies. Scars were etched in abundance on their impossibly pale skin. Some exposed scars spewed out blood, which served as a delicacy for the tiny insects that hovered over it, while some were masked by the dried, rusted blood.

She watched in horror as the three of them hungrily chewed a lower leg, that looked like... a human’s. The toes on it wiggled all of a sudden. The man biting the ankle saw the movement and snickered as he licked them and then tucked them in his mouth. Another man in the middle with a blood drenched face, hurriedly gulped down huge chunks of the calf while droplets of blood hung from the edge of his chin before falling to the dead grass under his feet, and then made a disgusted face before spitting out the half chewed meat.

Shruti’s hands involuntarily clutched her mouth, which warned to spill out whatever she had eaten for dinner. She forcefully swallowed it all down, fighting the gag instinct and the sour burning in her throat.

The man then took out a stained handkerchief from his pant pocket. Under the dim light of the bulb fixed outside, Shruti could make out that it was tainted with a sickening shade of red and pieces of meat clung onto its gory landscape. He wiped his mouth with it and then without any warning, dug his nails into his eye socket.

He grunted as he dug deeper and deeper until half of his digits were inside it and the blood had started to ooze out. The two other men didn’t take notice of his actions, and continued their chomping, eager to get more than the other. Shruti witnessed his hand clawing before he was ready to pull his eye out. A stream of blood squirting out was the last thing she saw, before she squeezed her eyes shut and curled her lips. She sank her teeth into the skin of her cheeks, hard enough to be able to taste her own blood, shaking more violently than a yellowed leaf.

When she opened her eyes again, the man had stuffed the handkerchief inside his eye socket and his face was glimmering under an ominous veil of red. The cloth that remained outside the socket was painted in red, showing off the mighty amount of blood it had drunk.

The man then turned to the other man who was still chewing the ankle, and showed him a sheen object on his palm. He looked at it with an expression that she identified as amazement. He looked at the man’s face for a few seconds, and then licked the object off his palm. As soon as he chewed it, a viscous yellow liquid spurted out of his mouth and trickled down his chin. He nonchalantly went back to licking the exposed bone.

But the man with the handkerchief in his orbit didn’t stay there. Instead, he started walking to somewhere in the compound. After walking a few steps, when he abruptly stopped, Shruti realized that there was something huge lying on the grass.

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